The 4 Disciplines of Execution summary
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The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary | Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals

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Chris McChesney’s Perspective

Chris McChesney is the Global Practice Leader of Execution for Franklin Covey and one of the primary developers of the 4 Disciplines of Execution. Chris’ career with Franklin Covey began by working directly with Dr. Stephen R. Covey and has continued over two decades to include roles as a Consultant, Managing Director, and General Manager within the organization. Chris has personally led many of the most noted implementations of the 4 Disciplines. For example, the State of Georgia, Marriott International, Shaw Industries, Ritz Carlton, Kroger, Coca Cola, Comcast, Frito Lay, Lockheed Martin, and Gaylord Entertainment.

Jim Huling’s Perspective

Jim Huling serves as FranklinCovey’s Global Managing Consultant. He is responsible for the 4 Disciplines methodology and the quality of delivery worldwide. Jim also regularly leads the company’s largest-scale engagements, including the 4DX implementation for Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton (14,000 leaders), Kroger (800 stores), Payless ShoeSource (4,500 stores), H&R Block (6,000 offices), and several large hospitals. Additionally, he has considerable experience working as CEO of Fortune 500 companies. This includes more than a decade as CEO of a company recognized four times as one of the “25 Best Companies to Work for in America.”

Sean Covey’s Perspective

Sean Covey is an American author, speaker, and businessman, best known for his work in the field of personal development and leadership, particularly geared towards young people and teenagers. He is the son of Stephen R. Covey, the renowned author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Synopsis

The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing your most important strategic priorities despite professional distractions. The authors suggest adopting the 4 Discipline. These disciplines are Focus on the Wildly Important; Act on Lead Measures; Keep a Compelling Scoreboard; Create a Cadence of Accountability. Through these disciplines, leaders can produce breakthrough results. These significant improvements require a commitment to these disciplines and effective integration into the wider team. 

Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important

The authors of this book recommend that you identify just one or two key goals at a time. If you adopt this wisdom into your life, you will maximize the energy you invest in your success. 

Focusing on what is wildly important prevents you from spreading yourself too thin. Hence, you must learn how to focus before moving forward and identifying your primary goals.

Focusing on one goal is built into our natural make-up. Our brains are not designed to multitask as they can only truly focus on one task at a time. As soon as you try to add more ‘focus points’, your vision becomes blurry and nothing will get your full attention. Our modern society is obsessed with the idea of multitasking due to the fast-paced nature of the lives we now live. We are expected to skim and scan information while listening to others and thinking about another task. The skills used for reading, deep thought, and sustained concentration are not practiced often enough. We are losing our capacity to focus.

Leaders

There tends to be more pressure placed on people to expand their goals rather than narrow them. However, the reality is that narrowing your goals is associated with better results. This reality is particularly troublesome for leaders. Leaders are increasingly pushed to improve and recognize new opportunities as they come along. However, leaders also typically feel overwhelmed by the number of goals they have to accommodate. It is possible to consider all potential incoming opportunities and prioritize your core priorities as a leader. Therefore, identify the goals that require more of your attention and discard opportunities that are not highly beneficial.

The authors provide three things that leaders should consider while managing their teams:

  1. Ambitious and creative leaders will always aim to do more than they should take on. If you are one of these leaders, you should consider whether you are also overworking your team.
  2. Another issue frequently experienced by leaders is hedging their bets. For example, a leader may push their team to attempt several different options to ensure success. However, focusing on volume will spread your team too thin. Therefore, it is more optimal to focus on your team’s best option and putting all of your energy into this pursuit.
  3. Finally, leaders might worry about narrowing their goals due to the chance of rejecting good ideas. However, good ideas are not always the right goals. Hence, rejecting good ideas is all part of achieving success.

Choosing Your Wildly Important Goals

While working as part of a team, it can feel like you are being bombarded with multiple urgent priorities. Subsequently, it can be challenging to narrow your focus to choose just one or two wildly important goals. The authors recommend taking the pressure off finding the perfect goal for you and your team. Instead, you should consider your team’s current situation and identify any area where you could have the most significant impact by making a change. This is the area where you should instill your wildly important goal. This goal could be based on something that is broken within your team and needs to be fixed. Alternatively, it could be something brand new that could significantly improve your performance, such as a new product. 

Expanding Your Wildly Important Goals 

The majority of this book is based on guiding leaders and teams. However, the authors also suggest that these same goals can be effectively applied to an entire organization. The larger scale can be initially daunting. However, implementing the same crucial goals across the entire organization can have monumentally positive results. 

The authors offer four tips that will be useful when aiming to expand your team goals to the entire organization: 

  1. Ensure that every team within your organization has a maximum of two wildly important goals.
  2. The battles you choose within your organization have to be ones that will allow you to win the war. 
  3. Your senior leaders should have the final say. However, this does not mean they should act like dictators. Encourage all of your team to offer their ideas.
  4. Every wildly important goal must have the following formula: X & Y by Z. Essentially, you need to know exactly what your goals are and give yourself a deadline.

Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures

Discipline 2 is the discipline of leverage. This discipline focuses on supplying the majority of your team’s energy, time, and resources to the activities that drive your team’s lead measures. A lead measure is the measure of all tasks that are directly related to achieving the defined goal. As a leader, you have to identify the tasks and the corresponding actions required for your team to reach its goal. 

Lag and Lead Measures

Lag Measures

A lag measure is an indicator of when you have achieved your team’s goal. Importantly, these indicators are out of your control. The authors use the example of your car breaking down to outline the two measures. Lag measures are like how often your car breaks down. You have no control over how often your car breaks down.

Lead Measures

A lead measure will provide you with more information than a lag measure. Specifically, a lead measure will tell you the likelihood of you reaching the goal. Crucially, lead measures give you control. Essentially, if you ever notice that you are unlikely to reach your goal, then you can change your team’s approach. With reference to the car analogy, lead measures are like your tire pressure or oil level. 

If you use your lag measure as your barometer, it will be too late to change your approach when you notice something is wrong. You will have either achieved your goal or not by the time you have attained your lag measure. If your lead measure changes, then your lag measure will be influenced. Hence, the more you respond to the information provided by your lead measure, the less likely your car is to break down.

Leverage

The one key point underpinning effective lead measures is leverage. Leverage is essential for your team, and without leverage, you will waste time and energy to no avail. Leverage allows your effort to create positive outcomes. 

Discipline 3: Keep a Record

Everybody in your team has to be aware of how effectively they are moving towards achieving their goals. The authors call this ‘keeping a compelling scorecard.’ Ensuring your team members know whether they are on the right track is called the discipline of engagement. Importantly, making your team aware of the lag and lead measures is not enough. Instead, you need to ensure that every team member is consistently reminded of their progress towards these goals. Therefore, visually present this progress simply and engagingly. Knowing the score will keep your team engaged and motivated.

The visual presentation of your team’s goals is called the scoreboard. Your scoreboard should be clear and include all the essential information. Additionally, simplicity is crucial. Hence, everybody in your team should understand the numbers to the extent that they could explain them to somebody else. The critical asset associated with a scoreboard is greater team motivation. 

The authors provide an outline of how you should approach designing your scoreboard:

  • Ensure your scoreboard is as simple as possible. One way to ensure this is to only include necessary data and ensure that anybody could immediately understand the data.
  • Make the scoreboard easily visible within your working space. The more visible your scoreboard, the more frequently your team will be reminded.
  • Include both your lead and lag measures. 
  • Make it clear whether your team is currently succeeding or failing.

Engagement

It is a common belief that engagement drives results. However, the authors believe the relationship runs in the opposite direction. Specifically, team results improve team engagement. Hence, you should aim to improve engagement by identifying the actions that significantly impact the results. If you can implement these actions throughout your team, then your team engagement will rise rapidly.

People generally feel more engaged when they are winning at something. This is true when people are playing games, and it is also true within working environments. Hence, improve your team’s success, and you will obtain an engagement level greater than you can achieve via money, bonuses, or work cultures. 

Discipline 4: Encourage Accountability

Accountability relies upon having consistent performance tracking. Thus, you want to introduce ways of tracking past performance and planning for the future. The first three disciplines provide a foundation, and the final discipline, accountability, is where the action happens. Accountability brings teams together and helps them perform at a high level. Any team that lacks accountability will find people losing focus, getting distracted, and disagreements over what is important.

WIG sessions

McChesney highlights the importance of teams having weekly WIG (Wildly Important Goal) sessions. A WIG session is a twenty-to-thirty minute meeting with a pre-arranged plan designed to re-focus on accountability. This type of meeting can make the difference between a team failing and a team winning. These meetings are designed to hold each team member accountable for their dedicated tasks, all with the aim of moving the lead measures. 

The authors provide a five-stepped outline of what your WIG sessions should look like:

  1. Adopt consistency. For example, try to hold these sessions on the same day and at the same time each week. Plus, specify what you expect from the sessions and when you expect these things to happen. Finally, ensure that you never cancel these sessions. If people cannot attend, then the session must still go ahead. 
  2. Limit the WIG session discussion to only actions and results directly related to the scoreboard. Do not allow any distractions and remain focused only on the task at hand. This will ensure that the sessions are fast, seamless and everyone walks away knowing exactly what is expected of them.
  3. Don’t go over the maximum time of thirty minutes. You want your sessions to be fast and efficient.
  4. Have a clear plan. Start with a brief report on commitments. Then review the scoreboard, identifying successes and failures. Finally, plan the new commitments and direction.
  5. Have everyone prepare for the meeting. Encourage every team member to think about the most important activities they can engage with that coming week.

Disengagement

This book provides a few features that can encourage disengagement: 

  • Anonymity.
  • A lack of acknowledgment of individual work.
  • A team member feeling irrelevant to the overall team’s goals and results.
  • Team members who cannot measure and assess their work.

The aim of regular WIG sessions should be to address each of these three disengagement issues. Ensure that each team member feels recognized and acknowledged. Clearly identify how the work they are doing leads to end results. Plus, give them the tools required to measure and assess their own work.

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