Execution Excellence with 4DX – 4 Disciplines of execution

 

To achieve a goal you have never achieved before you must do things you have never done before   ~Stephen Covey

What is so inspiring? All of us already know that in order to do something new, we are expected to do something different.

Well, the answer is “FISH discover water last”.  I will write a separate blog to explain why fish discover water last.  Lets find out the relation between 4DX and the above quote.

The 4DX or The four disciplines of execution is designed to create a winnable game.  Very simple and easy to understand while tricky to implement and sustain because this requires us to work differently than what we do.

Steve Jobs quoted “Ideas are worthless without execution”. It is easy to say that someone “stole your idea” but the truth of the matter is that ideas are worthless until they’re brought to life and executed

The 4 Disciplines of execution – A wonderful book written by Mr. Sean Covey where he talked about how focusing on goals that matter and further how to win the game by step by step process. You can be very well assured that this really works with more than 1500 organizations that have adopted it and seen wonderful results.

In order to understand the disciplines, let’s understand the two key concepts

  1. Strategy &
  2. Execution

A leader can influence two of the items when it comes to producing results.

Strategy and Ability to execute that strategy.  Which one you think leader struggle with more – I don’t have to ask as it’s obvious.

The answer is the ability to execute the strategy.

In case if you are MBA or spend time in learning management – What did you were taught?   “It’s Strategy”

No wonders great strategies fail –  Now the question is why people fail to execute the goals – It’s because of whirlwind.  Whirlwind – These are existing work and urgent tasks that need attention now. For example – Management reports, KPI, Status report, reviewing code, 1x1s, and the list goes on.

On contrary to that there is another concept called WIG or wildly important goals (WIG) which are nothing but “new activities” and “Innovation” which affects the future success

If you closely observe you would find whirlwind are urgent items because it affects today while WIGs are extremely important items that affect the future. When there is a battle between Urgency and Importance, obviously urgency will win.

Now, let’s understand the 4 step process to make a balance between your WIG and Whirlwind.

  1. Discipline of Focus

Ask yourself if everything else remained the same, what is the one thing you could change that would have the greatest impact.

If you have 4-10 goals – you achieve 1. if you go with more than 10, you typically achieve none. Interestingly if you have 2-3 goals, the chances of achieving them all are very high. Sounds interesting, isn’t it?

To define a WIG;  Identify 1. Where are you now, 2. Where you want to be 3.  & By When

Or you define the starting line, finish line, and deadline

  • Focus on your wildly important goals
  • Focus on less to accomplish more
  • There are always good ideas than the capacity to execute
  • Focus on what not how

Focus Traps

Inability to reject good ideas 

This is the disciplines of focus and the first step for creating a winnable game

  1. Discipline of leverage

The second discipline is to act on the lead measure. In order to understand this, we need to understand lead and lag measures

Lag Measure – Lag measures measure results towards your wildly important goal. They’re easy to measure but hard to influence.

Lead Measures – Most high impact things you must do to achieve your goal.

If we take the same weight loss example, I want to lose 10 kg by December. The 10kg is the lag measure. The lead measure would be cutting 100 calories a day and working our 5 times a week.

Using Lag Measures without Lead Measures is dangerous. They only measure the result of your goal. Lead Measures can influence the chance of success in achieving your goal. They are even predictive of success.

  1. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

Think of a bunch of players playing a cricket match on the ground

People and teams play differently when they are keeping score, and the right kind of scoreboards motivate the players to win.  Great teams know at every moment whether they are winning or losing. They must know, otherwise, they don’t know what they have to do to win the game. We need to publish the score regularly and that should be visible to everyone.  The Agile “Information radiators” plays a critical role here. 

Discipline 1, 2, and 3 are nothing but a formula for creating a winnable game. Discipline 4 is how we play the game hence it’s the most important activity we need to focus on

  1. Create a Cadence of accountability

Discipline 4 is to create a cadence of accountability – It’s all about regular and frequent team meetings that focus on the wildly important goals. You should remember

  • This should not last more than 20 to 30 minutes
  • The meeting should be held at the same time and same day of the week. Consistency is critical to have a sustained cadence of accountability.
  • The whirlwind never allowed in the WIG session no matter, how urgent it may seem.

The focus of the session is to make team members hold each other accountable.  In this meeting, we would have answers to three things

  • What did we accomplish last week?
  • Did that move our lead or lag measure or need to course correct
  • What are 1-2 things we should do to push the lead measure which would push the lag measure?

The Behaviors play a critical role while ensuring 4 steps

  1. Establish a sense of urgency (Kotter’s law of change) – The constant sense of danger to survive or innovative leadership can bring in urgency.  Precisely you are expected to challenge the status quo and push employees to no longer be complacent.
  1. Change is inevitable – We need to realize that change is mandatory but you don’t need to be perfect. Have you heard of leaders’ plans to plan and further plan – to achieve perfection but the same focus is not there in execution. Don’t be perfect. Perfection is a fallacy. Start with a good plan and move towards perfection.
  1. Take an economic view – It’s tough to say no to good ideas.  Use the Pareto principle which is 20% of ideas will generate 80% of success.  Pick what is important and narrow your focus. The human brain is not programmed to multitask.  Prioritize looking at the benefits of goal to the organization and not with emotions
  1. Don’t make your Whirlwind to be a WIG – Don’t get so busy that you are 100% reactive. 20% of your time must be focused on doing WIG then only you can make a difference and that would result in organizational success.
  1. The decision should go where the knowledge exists – Unless a decision is one time, makes a significant financial impact, move that to your team. That would help you to move faster and at the same time help your directs to grow in their career.
  1. Intrinsic motivation – This is one of my favorites. This is from the book Drive written in 2009. If you want to bring the highest level of motivation to your team, you should focus on three core factors – Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
  • Autonomy– people are trusted and encouraged to take ownership of their own work and skill development.
  • Mastery– people see no limits to their potential and are given the tools they need to continue to improve their skills.
  • Purpose– people are encouraged to use their skills to achieve a “greater” purpose – for instance, getting involved in a “good cause” that they are passionate about.

Money doesn’t motivate people though not giving enough money demotivates them.

  1. Credit Game – Don’t fall into trap of getting the credit. Have you observed people want to sign up for every initiative just for “Face Value”? As a leader, you should discourage that and moreover lift people up based on the outcome they produce. It is very easy to develop bias because somebody has said great words about your people or your direct has taken up great sessions. Once you are focused on the outcome, people would start getting out of the credit game. Focus on the outcome and not output.

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.

  1. Create short term wins – Remember principle #3 – Keeping a compelling scoreboard – It’s imperative to create short term wins. Celebrate your wins – Celebrate success and celebrate failure but ensure that you keep moving towards your goal.
  1. Embrace the feedback – If you are wrong, accept mistakes. If you get feedback, listen, and act. Don’t shoot the messenger instead embrace your messenger. Feedback is the best way to improve faster.
  1. Relentless improvement – Last but not least, continually improve. The relentless improvement is mandatory in the current competing priorities. You can go up the ladder or go down. You can never stay where you are today.  Create an environment where people are encouraged to learn, read, and contribute. In fact, go back and read the book which will be given to you. Make sure the team read this before you start following 4 DX in your team.

You can buy the book 4DX – 4 Disciplines of execution by clicking at The 4 Disciplines of Execution