Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, and Sean Covey have written a book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution. It contains principles that will help you and your team successfully enact change. The objective of this process is to teach leaders how to help their teams execute on their highest priorities in the midst of the day-to-day whirlwind. As the title suggests, there are four disciplines a team will have to implement in order to make sure these goals stick. These practices ring true for any group, not just within business teams and partnerships. This article will give a brief overview of each so you can start thinking about how to make a lasting impact within your group. As you read, consider ways to creatively implement these successful practices within your family, community, charitable group, or sports team.
Discipline 1: Focus on the wildly important.
You may have many ideas on how to improve your business and help your team succeed. However, spreading yourself too thin on too many fronts is a big danger to any form of progress. We humans are not meant to multi-task, and need a significant amount of time to get in the zone. This means you should only focus your energy on 1-2 key goals that will have the biggest impact on your work. First, ask yourself: “If every other area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?” Once you have the answer, you should ask: “What are the fewest number of battles necessary to win this war?” The answer will determine which and how many lower-level goals will be needed to achieve the top-level goal. If a goal is wildly important, you should be able to tell if you’ve achieved it or not. To make that possible, you should formulate your goals to read “from X to Y, by when”.
Discipline 2: Act on Lead Measures.
There are two kinds of measures when it comes to tracking progress: Lag and Lead Measures. Lag measures are indicators that are ultimately out of your control. Even though measures like revenue or sales quota seem to be controllable by you, they in fact are subject to a degree of uncertainty. These measures lag behind the actions taken on a daily basis. In contrast, lead measures are measures that you have full control over because they are directly influenced by your behavior. This could be the number of phone calls you make in a day or the number of blog posts you publish each week. Such measures transparently and explicitly indicate how much you are accomplishing. Focusing on lead measures allows you to establish clear expectations within your team to stimulate positive outcomes.
Discipline 3: Keep a Record.
This is the discipline of engagement. To motivate your team to reach goals, you must make sure everyone knows the score at all times, so they can tell whether or not they’re winning. You need to share the progress in the form of a compelling scoreboard with your team. Without this, energy dissipates, intensity lags, and the team goes back to business as usual. A compelling scoreboard is simple, easily seen, shows lead and lag measures, and lets your team know at a glance if they’re winning. Results drive engagement, especially when the team can see the direct impact their actions have on results.
Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability.
This is where execution actually happens. Accountability means making personal commitments to the entire team to move the scores forward and then following through in a disciplined way. Accountability should be shared with everyone on the team. A great way to promote accountability is to have weekly meetings where you and your team review your wildly important goals while seeing what progress has been made. The key is to do this on a consistent schedule so it becomes an integral part of your team’s work, and establishes a sustained rhythm of performance. In this meeting, you should report on commitments, learn from successes and failures, and plan how to continue moving forward.
In the book, the authors quote their colleague Jim Stuart, who once said, “To achieve a goal you have never achieved before, you must start doing things you have never done before.” The principles above are timeless and self-evident. Though this book is focused toward accomplishing goals in the workplace, you can implement these principles in any group setting. For a more in-depth look at each of the disciplines and how to implement them in your group, read The 4 Disciplines of Execution and start creating change in the midst of your whirlwind.