There will always be more good ideas than the capacity to implement.
I’m tempted to stick this quote on the back of my business card.
Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling and Jim Stuart at FranklinCovey spent years developing and implementing this model of execution.
Their 4 disciplines are straightforward:
- Focus on the wildly important
- Act on the lead measures
- Keep a compelling scoreboard
- Create a cadence of accountability
Straightforward, but not easy.
And, as with any sound change practice, the disciplines require steady, consistent effort to implement successfully.
They recognize the enemy of successful execution is the “Whirlwind”, i.e. your day job and the urgencies that appear necessary to sustain your business. If you can’t focus on the wildly important, the other three disciplines won’t help you.
As they put it numerous times in the book:
The most important contribution a senior leader can make is to remain focused on the wildly important goal and resist the allure of your next great idea. (emphasis mine)
They recognized that the people who tend to rise to leadership positions are also the type of people who are creative and ambitious. The type of people who are hard-wired to take on too much and, because they are in a leadership position, have their staff take on too much.
They also recognized that leaders like to hedge their bets and position themselves, and their team, such that people can’t question the level of effort. Busy looks good.
Nothing is more counter-intuitive for a leader than saying no to a good idea, and nothing is a bigger destroyer of focus than always saying yes.
How many of these 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) implementations failed because their clients couldn’t find the discipline of focus?
They kept avoiding the “whirlwind.” Throughout the book, I hoped they would ask, “Is what you are doing in the whirlwind truly necessary?”
They stated that a focus on wildly important goals might help narrow the size and complexity of the whirlwind. It was obvious, however, that they were keeping day-to-day operations out of scope.
They never asked about what was happening in the whirlwind.
Why did they keep skirting around the thing that was likely to derail their model?
I’m going to talk more about this book in the next couple of posts and try to unpack that.
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I hope you can join me on this journey!