*The following is written by guest blogger Salarco
Why do companies fail? It isn’t because they have bad strategies or took bad choices in the past, the issue is never the lack of ideas or people that are not smart enough to find a common vision. The seventy percent of companies’ failures are because managers can’t execute their strategies. It is about execution, not about lack of strategy or vision. You can ask yourself when was the last time that your amazing idea into your company was not executed? Why didn’t that amazing idea work? Did that idea succumb because of other priorities? These are the questions that Sean Covey and Chris McChesney are trying to cover in their book The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) and propose a model to overcome them.
In Covey and McChesney investigation the lack of execution was not about the wrong compensation system, lack of trust between employees or a bad training program. The main reasons that are generating the crisis of execution are related with the lack of clarity in the final goal, the lack of a common compromise around the common goal, the cadence of accountability and the incoherence between the goal and clear steps to achieve that goal.
The starting point of The 4 Disciplines is the difference between the day job and strategic job. Managers usually have a lot of issues to split these two kinds of job and focus on what is going to move the organization forward. The daily job or whirlwind is urgent like answer a call or sends an email, this kind of job usually makes the organization work every day but at the same time blocks the organization to focus on new things. Instead, the strategic job is related to the plan that you set and it is moving the organization forward. Sadly, when the important competes against the urgent, the last one usually wins. Work in the strategic plan in spite of whirlwind ensure that you are moving your organization forward to your strategic objectives but that doesn’t mean you have to forget about your day job because that can kill you. It is about keeping a balance between work in the strategic objectives to ensure the progress of the organization but also in the whirlwind to keep the boat afloat.
The 4 Disciplines were designed to help the organization to survive the whirlwind and facilitate the execution of the strategy inside of it. The disciplines can look simple (and you are going to see that they are very simple to understand) but that doesn’t mean that they are simplistic or easy to implement. They require a good amount of effort and constancy to ensure their implementation. 4DX is providing a change of paradigm against the common intuition. And the last point before going to explore each one, 4DX work as an operating system that means to ensure a successful implementation all the 4 disciplines should be in place.
Next, we are going to give a look at The 4 Disciplines:
Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important.
The first discipline is very simple, but one of the hardest to implement. Start with the principle of focus, in other words, more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish. That is why the first challenge inside your organization is to focus on the wildly important.
This discipline goes against the common sense that often tells you that to achieve more, you need to focus on more things. Focusing on one goal, maximum two goals is guaranteeing that your organization is distinguishing what is truly the top priority and what is whirlwind. The book shows a very simple example of how NASA managed to send a man on the moon. It was a simple exercise of focusing on a Wildly Important Goal “Man on the moon” and build all the daily job of the employees of NASA around that.
Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures
The second discipline is about how you measure the strategy that you’re pursuing. The book sets two kinds of measures: lag measures and lead measures.
Lag measures are the tracking of the Wildly Important Goal. The main characteristic of these measures is that when you receive them all the performance that drove them is already in the past, you can’t influence it. Instead, the lead measures are the one with more impact in your work. They forecast the goal and can be directly influenced by the team members. Acting on these measures is one of the secrets of execution because they become a leverage point for achieving your goal.
Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
People act differently when they know that they are winning the game or not. Having a compelling score is ensuring to keep people accountable for the common goal, only consider your high performers inside your company or team and how was their commitment around a goal. This is the reason that this discipline is also called “the discipline of engagement”.
The kind of scoreboard that will drive the highest level of engagement, requires it to be so simple that everyone in the team can determine instantly if they are winning or losing. If the scoreboard is not simple, people will play another game or not feel committed to the common goal. Good examples of this discipline are sports like football or baseball, a clear scoreboard is enabling all the team to pursue a common goal and to understand if they are winning or not.
Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
This is the discipline where execution really happens. All the past disciplines set up the game, but until you don’t apply the last discipline your team isn’t in the game. In other words, if the team doesn’t consistently hold each other accountable, the urgent (whirlwind) will disintegrate the goal.
The cadence of accountability is a rhythm of regular and frequent meetings. These should happen at least weekly and ideally, they have to last no more than 30 minutes. The agenda of the meetings should base on Account (What did happen in the last week?), Review (Did the commitments of last week move the scoreboard?), Plan (What are the one or two most important things I can do in the next week, outside the Whirlwind, that will have the biggest impact on the scoreboard?).
In that brief meeting, team members hold each other accountable for producing results and moving forward the organization despite the whirlwind. The magic is in the cadence but also in the commitment that each team member is assuming on a daily basis. That generates ownership for the goal but also gives space to a just-in-time weekly execution plan that adapts to challenges and opportunities that appear every week.
4DX introduces a change of mindset inside your teams and your organization. The conventional thinking will say that accountability on teams is always top down, we meet with the boss in a periodic way and he lets us know what we need to do. A 4DX principle is that accountability and responsibility are shared between the team. We are still accountable to our boss but more important to each other. This change of perspective is the one that can ensure your organization moves forward.
Remember that 4DX is simple, but not simplistic. The objective of the 4 disciplines is to allow your teams and organization to survive the whirlwind and execute what really matters. Also, remember that 4DX is going against conventional thinking and the usual project way of working inside organizations or teams, but as Sean Covey and Chris McChesney say in the books “To achieve a goal you have never achieved before, you must start doing things you have never done before”.
4DX Book: http://www.4dxbook.com/