Staff Leadership Book Pick of the Month: The 4 Disciplines of Execution

What happened the last time you initiated a project or goal for yourself or at the office? Was it successful? Did the project crash and burn? Or somewhere in between? The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney and Jim Huling, describes a proven process that will support you in new endeavors.

It will help you identify the activities that will lead to success, create a usable, motivating scoreboard to measure your team’s activities and run effective meetings to share your progress. All this is spelled out in the four disciplines in the book. Below is a brief overview of those disciplines:

Focus on the wildly important goal (WIG) suggests that you find one or two, as it plainly states, wildly important goals. The authors are not suggesting you ignore all the day-to-day activities that must be done to keep your business afloat. They suggest narrowing your focus to what you want to significantly improve, i.e. revenue, customer satisfaction and increased productivity. They also suggest that any more than two goals will cause diminishing returns. [1]

Act on the lead measures is an important part of the process. You need to identify activities that are measurable and can be accomplished by an individual or team that will help you achieve your WIG. For example, perhaps your New Year's resolution is to look and feel better. You have decided that one way to do that is to lose some weight. The weight loss is your lag measure, or the activity that will show if you have met your WIG. But what will you do to lose the weight? Run? Long walks? Watch your calories? All of these activities are lead measures.

Keeping a compelling scoreboard keeps employees engaged in the activities (Lead Measure) that will help you reach the WIG. Have you noticed while playing a game (soccer, football, volleyball, etc.), the fans and players get more excited when the game is close and time is running out? You constantly are looking over at the scoreboard to see if you are going to win. This is the same with a compelling scoreboard at work. If the scoreboard is visible to the team and shows how far along you are in meeting the WIG by accomplishing the lead measures, the team will be more motivated.

Creating a cadence for accountability might be the most crucial discipline. The authors feel it is of great importance to conduct a weekly meeting that identifies where each person is on their Lead Measure and how that relates to the WIG. The leader must set a standard of expectation for meeting those goals each week through the members sharing last week’s accomplishments and next week's expectations. The goals are chosen by each team member on their own with the understanding that the team leader has a right to veto the lead measure activity.

If all of this book was a description of the disciplines, I would not recommend it. However, it focuses on how to use those four disciplines as a system and includes a plethora of examples from the business world.

The last discipline, creating a cadence for accountability, is the most important discipline in my eyes. Ultimately, I feel the biggest takeaway from this book is that this is a process that needs to be followed through from start to finish and reading it gives you the tools to do it.


[1] Diminishing returns - the bell curve effect of setting too few or too many goals. The more goals you to try to accomplish, the less you will achieve any of your goals. It is recommended to have two to three goals.

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