The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) is an execution system you’ve no doubt heard of, and is also the name of Chris McChesney’s popular workshop and best-selling book (co-authored by Jim Huling and Sean Covey). But while the 4DX method may seem straightforward, can it actually improve results, provide an effective execution framework and increase productivity?
The four disciplines are simple, but that’s not to say applying them is easy. Doing so requires a commitment to honing your focus, holding yourself accountable, and playing to win.
4DX is made up of four key elements:
1. Focus on the Wildly Important
You might find it hard to let go of a lot of good goals until you start serving a greater goal.
It’s of course easy to state that a single focus, a sole priority, and a primary goal is the way to get things done, but when you’re in the throws of running a business, managing a crisis or dealing with management, that concept can seem almost impossible to implement.
You may already feel like you’re working towards a single goal - a financial target, a company mission, a percentage of growth - but unless your focus is narrow, you’ll never make significant headway. This process leads to determining what McChesney refers to as the Wildly Important Goal (WIG).
McChesney summarises it by identifying the non-negotiable process of determining your:
The number one skill required for this? Saying NO.
This may be one of the most difficult challenges for leaders, as they’re drawn to new ideas, crave innovation and have a drive to always be optimising and adapting to new trends. The disappointing truth, according to McChesney, is that there will always be more ‘good ideas’ than capacity to execute. Learn to say no to anything that isn’t serving your WIG, and do it fast.
2. Act on the Lead Measures
Discipline number two is all about leverage.
For most teams, because of incentive structures and KPI measures, the focus of most of their time is on overall results. McChesney warns against this, describing it as like trying to drive forward while looking through the rearview mirror.
The focus, instead, should be on leading outcomes and behaviours, which ultimately drive high performance. Leaders must put a disproportionate amount of energy into this, which will ultimately lead to results.
3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
People play differently when keeping score. Perhaps you’re one of those people who enjoys playing social sports or board games with friends, ‘just for the fun of it,’ but perhaps you also find yourself changing strategy, playing harder and paying more attention to the details once you start keeping score. It’s the same in business, and it impacts levels of engagement and ultimately, success.
If you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing.
4. Create a Cadence of Accountability
We tend to blame people, it’s a natural place to go…
The fourth discipline is in fact, the most important one, however can only be put in motion once the first three are enacted.
We’ve stated that people play differently when keeping score, which is to say, when they’re responsible and accountable for their own score keeping, they play more effectively. It’s about accountability; not to their leaders, but to the themselves and to their peers. Committing to goals that are their own, is key.
People don’t execute because it’s hard.
Execution requires a change in behaviour in an environment packed with people being pulled in multiple directions with countless priorities and roles. The 4DX systems offers four simple, measurable disciplines that provide focus, clarity and accountability: a productivity model for your company.
Our mission is to give you access to the world's greatest thinkers, authors and speakers on leadership. See our Year in Review article to see what we got up to last year, and our events expected to sell out this year.
Members of The Growth Faculty receive discounts to events, as well as accessing a library of great ideas through interviews with bestselling international authors. To become a member, click here.