Effective execution turns ideas into reality.
Knowing what to do is important. However, it can only do so much. Unless your “what” materializes, nothing about your situation or circumstances will change. You need to learn how to make things happen. The “how” is where the action takes place. It’s where the rubber meets the road.
While most leaders know what to do to achieve their goals, they won’t ever get there without effective execution, and this is what the book seeks to address.
The book covers concepts and actionable tips on how to navigate through your urgent, daily to-dos while still accomplishing your critical long-term goals.
Background on the book
Title: The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals
Author: Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling
Topic: Self-help, Leadership, Business, Execution, Productivity
Recommended by: Jimmy Rodela
Favorite quote: “...Create not only great business results but also a high-performing culture.”
Most leaders don’t struggle with putting together a plan to achieve their goals. It’s the execution bit that throws them off. To execute effectively, you must simultaneously address your urgent to-dos (or the “whirlwind”) on top of the new activities that will meet your other important goals, those with more significant, long-term impact.
To help you drive organizational performance and attain effective execution, the book introduces these four disciplines:
- Focus on the wildly important: Excellent execution begins with narrowing your focus and clearly identifying what you must do. Ask yourself this question, “If every other area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?” The book also suggests that you focus on one goal — two, at most. In this case, less is more.
- Act on the lead measures: This discipline is about defining your daily or weekly measures that, when achieved, would lead to accomplishing your goals. Two key characteristics of the lead measure are its influenceability and predictability.
- Keep a compelling scoreboard: The right type of scoreboards motivate teams and employees to get in the game and win. It should tell them where they are and where they should be.
- Create a cadence of accountability: A culture of accountability that is self-directed, frequent, and positive within your organization encourages excellent performers to thrive.
I have goals I’ve been itching to accomplish for y-e-a-r-s. A lot of them are business-related, such as scaling my operations, optimizing my sales funnels, establishing a training program for my team, among other things.
Because of my urgent daily to-dos, I never get the chance to act on my plans. Like take-out food that’s forgotten in the refrigerator for weeks, my wildly important goals are left stagnating. The only difference is my goals were left to rot for several months — years even.
Does that sound familiar to you? Do you have plans, really important ones, you’ve been postponing for years because of your urgent daily tasks?
The things I learned from the book helped me climb out of the rut.
The impact of setting up lead measures especially stood out. It helped me process my seemingly unreachable goals to bite-sized and doable steps.
Most people will tell you to think about your end goals (every. single. day). On the other hand, the book tells us to figure out what these end goals are, create the lag and lead measures to make them happen, and then focus on the lead measures.
Because the lead measures are highly influenceable, predictable, and help you to accomplish your lag measures, you know with absolute certainty that you’re inching closer to your ultimate goals just by achieving those lead measures.
By following the steps and principles outlined in the book, you gain a deeper sense of clarity of how you’ll accomplish your most important goals.
3 takeaways for SMB owners
Here are the three major lessons from The 4 Disciplines of Execution.
1. Identify your Wildly Important Goal (WIG)
Knowing the WIG and sticking to it brings clarity to any organization. It gives business owners a clear sense of direction, giving teams a unified purpose to achieve goals.
The key is to focus on less to accomplish more. After all, the more goals you aim for, the less likely you’ll achieve them — let alone with excellence.
The book recommends focusing on one or two wildly important goals instead of scrambling to simultaneously meet dozens of objectives. These goals can be refined later to serve as the foundation for the company’s operational planning.
Establish your WIG to narrow your focus. This helps you work on important, long-term goals, despite your urgent daily to-dos.
2. Identify your lag and lead measures
According to the book, your success is greatly influenced by two types of measures: lag and lead. Lag measures monitor your WIG’s success, including things such as profit, customer satisfaction, and revenue. Lags can’t be fixed since the performance that propelled them has already passed. You either accomplished them, or you didn’t. You can’t do anything about it in the present.
Lead measures monitor the crucial activities that drive your lag measures. They predict your lag measures’ success and are directly influenced by the responsible teams.
For instance, if the lag measure is to finish writing a 10,000-word ebook in two weeks, the lead measure would be writing 1,000 words worth of content daily during workdays. Writing 1,000 words daily predicts the success of completing the 10,000-word ebook, and it’s an activity you can influence directly since it’s in the present.
The lag and lead measures help identify actions you should leverage for successful execution to meet your WIG.
3. Develop a rhythm of accountability
Establish a culture of accountability to ensure your team consistently does what they should to achieve your WIG.
Companies should hold each team member accountable through weekly (or daily) huddles. This allows businesses to analyze and correct failures, point out successes (such as a surge in marketing ROI), and commit to the next steps.
Improve execution through specific disciplines
There is more to the book than the key takeaways I have covered. It is a treasure trove packed with information for effective execution.
By identifying your WIG, acting on your lead measures, creating a compelling scoreboard, and developing a rhythm of accountability, your ability to execute effectively drastically improves.
The book’s content can make a huge difference in your company’s overall performance, from establishing your business goals to a performance management system.