by Aaron Zint
Have you ever had a really great idea, but the demand of your normal life kept you from making it happen? Join the club. This is a problem not just in our personal lives but in the business realm as well, and the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) was written to solve it. If you work for Compass, you will likely be hearing about the 4DX model and its application. We’ve already started using it and it actually works! So here is a general overview of the book and its principles.
The number one thing students learn in business school is strategy, and yet, the number one difficulty in business is the execution of that strategy. The reason for this difficulty is simple: the whirlwind. The whirlwind is the normal everyday priorities that require your time and attention. The whirlwind is the business functioning. The problem is that trying to execute a strategy, typically a goal of some sort, in the midst of the whirlwind is like trying to thread a needle in a hurricane. It’s really hard, if not impossible. To execute great strategy in the midst of the whirlwind, here are four disciplines that will help make it possible:
- Focus on the Wildly Important Goals (WIGs). Less is more. There are a million great ideas to create goals from. Trying to execute 4 to 10 goals will stretch everyone too thin to be able to be excellent at any of them. If as a team, you choose one or two goals that are wildly important, i.e. those that will make the most impact on your organization, then you can give your full attention to them.
- Act on Lead Measures. Your WIG must be measurable, or you’ll never know if you’ve met it. For example, a weight loss goal would be losing 10 pounds in 10 weeks. When I’m standing on the scale, I can’t magically control what number shows up, i.e. my weight. That is called a Lag Measure because it’s essentially lagging behind the actual work that’s being done. I can however, control how many calories I consume or how many minutes I work out in a day. These are lead measures because they are measurements that I can lead with or be in control of. A lead measure is a measurement you control that affects the end result. Act on those.
- Keep a Compelling Scoreboard. People play differently when they are keeping score. Have your team create a scoreboard that is updated frequently (daily or at minimum, weekly) so they can see how they are doing at meeting their goal. You’ve probably seen fundraising scoreboards like thermometers that are filled higher and higher with a colored marker as money comes in. This is the same idea. It’s best if the entire team participates in the creation of the scoreboard so that there is ownership of it. Scoreboards keep people engaged.
- Keep a Cadence of Accountability. People are motivated by accountability. The team should have a short (about 20 minute) weekly “WIG meeting” in which each person makes a commitment to act on a lead measure and then at the next week’s meeting reports on last week’s commitments. Everyone will then review and update the scoreboard. No whirlwind talk is allowed during this meeting.
Michele Gilbertson and I practiced the 4DX model with her team and saw an 82% decrease in staff-caused QSMed notifications in just one month. This created less stress for the team and helped increase the health, safety and happiness of our clients simultaneously. Putting these four disciplines into practice may not be easy but it is effective. Be on the lookout for 4DX coming to your team in the near future!