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Chris McChesney

4 proven actions to lift team productivity: Franklin Covey's famous 4DX method

The 4 Disciplines of Execution strategy to achieve your Wildly Important Goals

Chris McChesney

Image: Chris McChesney, Global Practice Leader of Execution for FranklinCovey

FranklinCovey's Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) model is widely respected. 4DX has lifted productivity at: Marriott International, ANZ Bank, ConvaTec, Harley Davidson, Shaw Industries (a carpet-making subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.), Ritz Carlton, Bolinda audio books, Dell, NSW Transport, Lockheed Martin, Downer, and Pfizer. Given some of the most successful companies in the world have applied 4DX in their strategy execution planning, it's time we took a closer look.

What is The Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX)

'The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) – Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals' is written by Chris McChesney, Global Practice Leader of Execution for FranklinCovey. Growth Faculty has interviewed Chris McChesney for our book club, and Chris has led a masterclass on the fundamentals of 4DX.

Why is execution important?

Making goals is not the same as reaching goals. Execution is the answer, but execution is almost always the problem. Leadership training institute Franklin Covey says a breakdown in execution occurs in 4 ways: 

1. Managers and work teams don’t know the goal.

2. Managers and teams don’t know what to do to achieve the goal.

3. They don’t keep score.

4. They are not held accountable.

You can see how easy it might be to fall short on executing on goals. If any of these sound familiar to you and your team, read on.

The 4DX framework for increased productivity

Franklin Covey's solution lies in the framework "The 4 Disciplines (4DX)". In a nutshell, the 4DX framwork is:

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important.
  2. Act on the Lead Measures (the actions - not the result).
  3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard.
  4. ​Create a Cadence of Accountability.

And, if this sounds like too much jargon, we explain it in plain language with examples below.

Intention vs Execution 

To make understanding the 4DX framework simple, let's use a plain-English example of a team being tasked with making more sales calls. You the leader want it to be your Wildly Important Goal to lift productivity and revenue. Perhaps you got to this point because:

  • cash flow is dire,
  • the sales team are not meeting targets,
  • a rising feeling of panic is setting in. 

So, as leader, you clap your hands, and announce at the morning meeting: “Okay, I want the sales team to make a lot more sales calls this week.”  You use your most encouraging voice. In bright green marker, you write "Focus this week: More sales calls" on the office whiteboard. 

Okay, that might make you feel like you're executing on goals, but you've just made a badly-formatted commitment

Measuring results is key to execution 

Why, then, is this “make a lot more sales calls” a badly-formatted commitment to really move the needle on productivity? 

Well, a quote (wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill) provides the answer.

‘However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally measure the results,’ Churchill never said. 

In other words, you need to put some numbers in there.

A formula for success - blo

What's the bet this runner has a numerical commitment? "I will run 2 kms x 7 days a week'.

 A well-formatted commitment is numerical

“I will make 20 phone calls and send 10 emails to my qualified leads every day this week” is an example of a well-formatted commitment. 

And, it’s a nice example of one discipline from The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX). Chris McChesney, a charismatic keynote speaker, explained to one of our masterclasses that a (20+10) x 5 goal passes the test because it is:

  • Specific (what, when, how)
  • Has an ability to influence the scoreboard (your goal)
  • Is timely (the impact of the activity can be seen in the near future)

But hang on, influence a scoreboard? Who’s keeping score here?

McChesney says to achieve results, you require a scoreboard

For the four disciplines of executions to work, you need to keep score of results. A scoreboard can be anything the team wishes it to be, as long as it is visible to the team, and can be altered to reflect progress towards a goal.   

  • Think stickers on a chart (and a gold one at the end of each month). 
  • Think crosses on a whiteboard (and pizzas for the office once the goal's reached).
  • Or an app.

Why does 4DX require us to keep score?

People tend to play differently when they are keeping score. Imagine for a moment two teams kicking a ball around in the park. The minute you mark out goals and announce that you’ll keep score, the individual’s and the team’s motivation soars! Business teams are no different. Humans love making progress, and it brings meaning to day-to-day work.

Recapping the 4DX framework 

Remember, the 4 Disciplines are:

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important (your WIG or Wildly Important Goal)
  2. Act on the Lead Measures (the actions - not the result).
  3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard.
  4. ​Create a Cadence of Accountability.

Lead measures and Lag measures

So let's look at the lead and lag measures of the 4DX framework. The specified actions you take (20 calls and 10 emails every day) are Lead Measures . They must be actions that move the needle towards your goal. 

In other words, they are actions that have an impact on your Wildly Important Goal (WIG).

Counting the sales made as a result of those calls is called a Lag Measure. The Lag Measure,here in this example, might also be revenue, number of new contacts added to the database, number of referrals. 

Putting it all together

You must act on and keep a score of lead measures to make any skerrick of a difference.

In other words, you could measure product sales but that in itself won’t move the needle. (A Lag Measure is the result of your actions or Lead Measures).  

Acting on the Lead Measures,however, will certainly start to make a difference.

Action you can take NOW: 

Go back over this article and swap out 'making sales calls' with your most valuable actions that will move the needle towards your own Wildly Important Goal. It could be “sending samples”“emailing past clients”,“submitting tenders”, or “responding to social media”and “filming content” etc. 

Defining actions that will move the scoreboard 

See what you’re doing? You’re defining actions that will move that scoreboard. Instead of "making calls", you’re committing to making “20 minutes of calling prospects every day” or similar. Instead of "find ways to reduce costs", you're committing to "45 minutes a day of sweeping our systems and processes to find unnecessary expenses."  

Mark your efforts and keep that "scoreboard" close and visible.

Acting on your Lead Measures is one of the 4DX keys to success for some of the world’s most robust and profitable companies, and you can implement it in your business. 

In conclusion:

Nobody sets out to fail. We all start every day determined we'll get to the important stuff. But oddly, the importance of a task is not the best motivator.

Unlike urgency, which puts a rocket under us. In the moment, it's hard not to jump to the latest email, solve the latest crisis, get our fingers on the shiny new project (a personal favourite of mine).

This is where we need to bring in the discipline so often mentioned in all the best quotes by Jim Collins.

The 4DX method is not easy, but it could stop you saying "we achieved nothing this week."


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