*The following is written by guest blogger Salarco
Since 2012, I’ve been working for an international organization that promotes leadership through different kinds of cross-cultural exchanges for young people between 18 and 30 years old. Our goal is to promote peace and fulfillment of humankind’s potential through different products like volunteering exchanges, professional exchanges, and entrepreneurship exchanges. Our volunteers are grouped through local offices spread in more than one hundred countries, in which the main objective is to facilitate the realization of the different exchanges. Each local office is free to adapt their market approach but also their use of the different resources like people or money. In addition, working with volunteers (not paid at a local level) that stay in the organization for a maximum two years, set different challenges in terms of knowledge management, ownership of the goal or cadence of execution.
For sure this panorama can sound complicated and very different from your company. Next, I am going to show four learning points that we had by implementing The 4 disciplines of execution inside our organization and how it can help your company to achieve results.
Before, remember that The 4 disciplines of execution were designed to help the organizations to survive the daily job (whirlwind) and facilitate the execution of the strategy inside your organization. The 4 disciplines are focused on the wildly important goal, act on the lead measures, keep a compelling scoreboard and create the cadence of accountability. If you want to understand more in detail about them, you can check our article published some days ago Execution is the key! The approach of 4DX. Don’t forget that 4DX is simple, but not simplistic. As you are going to see next what were our learnings at the moment of implementing 4DX:
1. The secret is to focus!
One of the main challenges that we had implementing The 4 disciplines of execution was to define what was that one thing, or maximum two, that we wanted to focus on.
Why was it so difficult? Because that was pushing ourselves to have a more long-term vision of the organization and to clarify what was the definition of success for each local office. We decided to start setting yearly focuses that could move forward one of our products. In other words, we were setting a clear goal for our volunteers. That focus goal was to communicate in a constant way through the different internal communication channels and it is it has been constant in every message inside of each local office.
An easy exercise that helps us to define the focus was taken from A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin and their book “Playing to Win”. First of all, understanding strategy as a set of choices that we need to make. Second, that our focus is based on the definition of winning or in other words the answer to the question What is our winning aspiration?. Finding the answer to that question allowed us to understand in what we wanted to focus and why.
2. Conventional measure thinking vs 4DX measure thinking
Once we had a clear focus, we moved to set the measures that were going to allow us to achieve it. Here we found a clear resistance that in my opinion was generated by the conventional way of working on projects. That way is designed to check results on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis and accepting that only we can change the direction of our organization.
We needed to clarify that 4DX is not a planning methodology, it is an execution methodology. But it meant challenging the traditional way of planning based on projects and Gantt diagrams and defining how we should set the measures inside our organizations. Yes for 4DX having clear long terms measures is important (Lag measures) because at the end they are defining if the organization is winning or not, but it is more important how weekly measures (Lead measures) can define if we are getting more closer to the goal or not.
At this point, our main challenge was to ensure that every volunteer was understanding the meaning of Lead Measures and how to act upon them. In other words, how their daily actions could influence these measures that bringing them closer to the final goal. When volunteers finally understood this, they were feeling more connected and compromised with the final goal.
3. Simple and clear! The art of scoreboard
Imagine that you are watching a football match on the TV of your living room, how would the screen look? For sure you imagine the players but also the information about the game around. Imagine that you take out that information and now you are only watching the players in the field. Which team is winning? Which team is losing? It is impossible to know. We faced a similar situation when we arrived at this part of the implementation of 4DX: “Keeping a compelling scoreboard”, our scoreboard inside the local office was not clear enough to understand if we were winning or not. Our teams were feeling very frustrated because they were not understanding their results and how they were contributing to the final goal.
We started defining which key elements should we have inside our scoreboard. Then, asking what should we review on a weekly basis to understand if we are getting closer to the goal or not. This allowed us to simplify our old scoreboard that was carrying a lot of measures and wasn’t clear. Now, the scoreboards inside our different local offices allow everyone to understand if they are winning or not but more important is how we are acting in the different measures to achieve the final goal.
4. Cadency is hard, very hard!
The last discipline of 4DX is the one that allows all the mechanisms to move because it is the one ensuring the accountability of systems inside the organization. If you have already a set of practices inside your organization it should be easier to guarantee the implementation of it. For example, weekly meetings or daily checkpoints allow our organization to start building management practices from it.
If you decide to have weekly touchpoints, as we did, the first element that you need to guarantee is the constancy of the meetings. They should happen every week without excuses and allow the organization to build a routine from it. The second element is that these meetings should have a clear agenda, that is the same every week and it has to be based on Account-Review-Plan structure. The third element is to guarantee a maximum duration of the meeting, the 4DX recommendation is from 20 to 30 minutes but you can adapt it depending on the type of organization that you are working with.
4DX is allowing to break the mindset between strategy and execution. The majority of business programs focus on teaching their students about how to take the right strategic decisions but they miss the importance of the execution. The most wonderful thing that 4DX provides is allowing your organization to make small changes of directions on a weekly basis, ensuring that your organization is adapting to the different changes that appear in the reality.
The implementation of 4DX is allowing us to get closer to our strategic goals and to adapt to the different changes that we have inside the organization (short learning curve, high rotation of volunteers, different market approach strategies) by transforming them in our main strength. This is increasing our goal achievement but also make our teams more committed to the achievement of our vision as an organization.
4DX Book: http://www.4dxbook.com/