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The 4 Disciplines of Execution by McChesney, Huling, & Covey

Quick summary:

Discipline 1 - The discipline of focus. Extraordinary results can only be achieved when you are clear about what matters most. As simple as this principle may sound, few leaders ever master it. 4DX teaches why focus is so critical and how to overcome your biggest source of resistance.

Discipline 2 - The discipline of leverage. With unlimited time and resources, you could accomplish anything. Unfortunately, your challenge is usually the opposite: accomplish more with less. 4DX shows leaders where they can find real leverage and how to use it to produce extraordinary results.

Discipline 3 - The discipline of engagement. You have the authority to make things happen, but you want more than that - you want the performance that only passion and engagement can produce. 4DX enables leaders to rise from authority-driven compliance to passion-driven commitment in themselves and the people they lead.

Discipline 4 - The discipline of accountability. No matter how brilliant your plan or how important your goal, nothing will happen until you follow through with consistent action. 4DX brings the practices that drive accountability and follow through, despite a whirlwind of competing priorities.

Focus on the Wildly Important.

Exceptional execution starts with narrowing the focus— clearly identifying what must be done, or nothing else you achieve really matters much.

Act on the Lead Measures.

Twenty percent of activities produce eighty percent of results. The highest predictors of goal achievement are the 80/20 activities that are identified and codified into individual actions and tracked fanatically.

Keep a Compelling Scoreboard.

People and teams play differently when they are keeping score, and the right kind of scoreboards motivate the players to win.

Create a Cadence of Accountability.

Great performers thrive in a culture of accountability that is frequent, positive, and self-directed. Each team engages in a simple weekly process that highlights successes, analyzes failures, and course-corrects as necessary, creating the ultimate performance-management system.

Going straight into the OKR vs 4DX discussion. Before even starting the session. :P :D

  1. Only focussing on 1 or 2 important goals
  2. Measure what matters

In previous experience, engagement is difficult. But because of the WIGs the team are made accountable to help achieve the main WIGs. You give the team the time to contribute.

It felt quite American. How would you adapt it to the UK?

Inconsistency in the book, how often should you really change your lead metrics?

  • It feels like you’d be pivoting too frequently and it would make it difficult to follow.

Accountability, does this work well for increasing it?

Now that strategy is reset, what’s the best way to see that you’re on track?

With WIGs you can’t have many of them, that implied that you have a whole organisation/team focussing on 1 goal. Which doesn’t seem to be working? OKRs accepts that you can do different things to contribute to the Objective.

How does day to day also fit into a framework that contributes to goals vs keeping operations going?

Defining that one main goal of a company is difficult. Also, you often have the focus that shifts. Which is hard to manage.

Some teams have their focus change constantly depending on where the revenue can be found.

OKRs have a problem of accountability, weekly is too often to review, monthly is not enough.

  • Is it a solution to just say 4-6 we all work on a project, per team or company-wide? Taking away from the distractions of Slack, customer emails, inboxes.

You need buy-in from the top for it to make it work.

When OKRs implementation doesn’t work, do you just try again or go with a different framework like 4DX?

A company where everyone asks “why” - a blessing in disguise? :) Should everyone in the company be encouraged to always question everything?

OKR’s 70%: “if I cannot achieve 100%, why is it even worth trying?”

Consultancy setting: WIGs better than OKRs because when working with a number of clients, objectives change every week.

Could there be a hybrid between OKRs and 4DX?

How do you set a goal in a company? How do you know what your goal is a founder/CEO?

  • If you ask a founder of a company what their goal is then you’ll get an answer. But if you as the leadership team, they will all give you a different answer each on company level.
  • It’s also difficult to keep a CEO focussed on 1 goal without being distracted by the next thing.
  • Quartly goals are easier than annual ones, especially when unexpected things happen like COVID-19. It’s too far out.
  • OKRs and WIGs have in common that the top goals/objectives and the smaller ones feed into each other.
  • In the company strategy, there is always a north star.
  • A lot of times revenue is the objective. And the teams are not organically feeding into the main goal, but each team gets objectives that match them. But then there’s a disconnect between the main goal and the team goals. Eg. Company: More revenue and marketing: have x amount of users more on the platform. It doesn’t feel like a natural outcome of the company goal.
  • Make the distinction between a mission (In 10 years) and vision (next 3 years). For the vision “How do we know that we’re winning?” That was the question asked. And then break it down to company, annual goals. Then ask about people how they would be engaged “What’s the highest leverage thing that your team can do?” “What does your team need to do on a day to day to make this happen?” and then the goals were determined.
    • The teams where it worked well are the teams that experience the fewer whirlwinds.
    • Ask everyone to send weekly updates
    • Every Monday have a discussion about how progress is going and what should be done to remove the blockage.
    • On Tuesday a plan is made up
    • On Wednesday the plan is communicated to all hands.
  • Having your team question why you’re doing something as a company. It’s interesting to have 1 person think about the reasons why, and 1 person to think about the reasons why not.
  • You can always find a reason why “yes”.
  • You can also push too far the “why” by everyone. Too many things would end up being questioned. Be careful to not take it too far.
  • OWKRs

Accountability

  • Start with the positives and have individual contributions recognised.
  • It’s harder to understand why people don’t deliver. When you have weekly check-ins you can quickly identify that a team/person is falling behind. If OKRs are quarterly, it won’t be noticed as quickly.
  • How do you deal with someone who hasn’t completed the work?
    • What can I do to support you in the future?
    • This is the knock-on effect of you not completing the work
    • Having team members know that if they have too much going on, they can ask a senior person what they should prioritise.
    • Ask 5 times why they didn’t do it
    • Understand people’s individual motivators and blockers. And how do you adapt those into the overall goals?
  • How do you help people who are constantly caught in whirlwinds?
    • Give a person 5% or 10% time to work on something that helps contribute to the WIG
    • They are not expected to be present to do their day to day job. They shouldn’t answer tickets. They could be away from their desk to indicate they are working on those projects.
  • The idea that your team can’t be involved with helping with a goal. Or you don’t know whether you’re treading on toes. Or even sometimes, there’s a problem between teams and working together or giving each other advice, that communication might not happen.
  • Having people identify what the most valuable thing is for them to do.
  • It’s important to have everything to connect into one overarching goal.
  • Teams can quickly end up in box-ticking exercises.
    • Support team: appeasing them by having them act upon the number of queries, but it doesn’t really fit into the overall goal.
  • People have a hard time prioritising their day to day and why is that? People are more confused than productive.
  • The insight into company goals can sometimes only be understood by the leadership team or certain teams, but they might not be understood by the whole company. E.g. Increase TTV. Six months later a junior team member asked what TTV what it actually means.
  • Peer accountability is the most valuable thing to keep people engaged.
    • It also depends on the kind of person
  • The book mentions keeping people engaged by having them make their own dashboards.

The positive about the book is that there was a lot of practical advice on how to implement the 4DX in your company. More than some other strategy books where it’s more an explanation of a concept. The biggest thing that is missing is how you get to that WIG.

How do you come to the best recipe for success, following 4DX and other strategy ideas.