What is 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX)?
Most executives lament their organization’s inability to follow through on its biggest goals. 4 Disciplines of Execution attempts to tackle this “strategy/execution gap.” The gap occurs for any goal that needs behavioral change. The biggest reason people fail to execute on goals is “the whirlwind.”
The whirlwind is the day job; it’s the things that must get done to run the business. It destroys the execution of larger goals. It wins when the organization has too many goals, the goals are unclear, and/or there is no accountability for achieving the goals.
4 Disciplines of Execution is not theory. It is a proven set of practices that have been tested and refined by hundreds of organizations and thousands of teams over many years. When a company or an individual adheres to these disciplines, they achieve superb results—regardless of the goal. 4 Disciplines of Execution represents a new way of thinking and working that is essential to thriving in today’s competitive climate.
4 Disciplines of Execution
Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly
Don't waste your energy on many jobs. focus on one or two goals that will make a difference. Execution definitely begins with focus. Without it, the other three disciplines won't be able to help you. Your wildest target is your target that makes a difference! Don't forget that. "What is the most important?" Instead, "If all other areas of our operation remained at the current performance level, what is the area where change will have the greatest impact?" Whether the point you want to reach comes from inside or outside your target. Your real aim is not only to achieve this, but also to make the new level of performance a natural part of your team's operation. Focus on the Organization Here are four rules to help you narrow the focus of your entire organization:
Rule 1: No team focuses on more than two WIGs at the same time. The key is not an overload of a single leader, team or individual player.
Rule 2: The battles you choose must win the battle. The only purpose of WIGs at lower levels in the organization is to help achieve WIGs at higher levels.
Rule 3: Senior leaders can veto but cannot dictate. While top leaders will undoubtedly determine the top WIG, they should allow leaders at all levels below to identify WIGs for their teams.
Rule 4: All WIGs must have a finish line from X to Y. Each WIG at each level should include a clearly measurable result and the date on which it should be achieved.
Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures
While a lag measure tells you if you’ve achieved the goal, a lead measure tells you if you are likely to achieve the goal. For example, while you can't control how often your car breaks down on the road (a lag measure), you can certainly control how often your car receives routine maintenance (a lead measure). And the more you act on the lead measure, the more likely you are to avoid that roadside breakdown.
We call them lag measures because by the time you get the data the result has already happened. A lead measure is predictive, meaning that if the lead measure changes, you can predict that the lag measure will also change. A lead measure is also influenceable; it can be influenced by the team. It's the data on lead measures that enables you to close the gap between what you know your team should do and what they are actually doing.
Without lead measures, you are left to try to manage to the lag measures, an approach that seldom produces significant results.
Defining and Tracking Lead Measures Oakland Athletics General Manager Sandy Alderson and his assistant manager Billy Beane brought together the best thinkers they could find on the subject: What produces wins? The answer: the highest number of runs. What are the lead measures that create a run? They discovered that the mighty sluggers were often not all that productive. The most productive players were the ones who could just get on base. They could score runs much more reliably than the power hitters who commanded astronomical salaries. What Beane did was to track the on-base record of players across the league and then recruit from those who were very good at getting on base.
For a decade, the Oakland A's maintained the fifth best record in Major League Baseball while ranking 24th in player salaries. The Oakland management team reframed the game by acting on the lead measures that produce wins. If you are serious about your WIG, then you must create a way to track your lead measures. Without data, you can't drive performance on the lead measures; without lead measures, you don't have leverage. Lead Measures and Engagement Coming up with the right lead measures is really about helping everyone see themselves as strategic business partners and engaging them in dialogue about what can be done better or differently in order to achieve the WIGs.
Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scorecard
The third discipline is to make sure everyone knows the score at all times, so that they can tell whether or not they're winning. This is the discipline of engagement. If the lead and lag measures are not captured on a visual scoreboard and updated regularly, they will disappear into the whirlwind. People disengage when they don’t know the score. Great teams know, at every moment, whether or not they're winning. They must know, otherwise, they don't know what they have to do to win the game.
A compelling scoreboard tells the team where they are and where they should be, information essential to team problem solving and decision-making. When Kennedy said to the moon and back by the end of the decade, he threw that switch. formance and reaching their goal, and this changes the level at which they play. When everyone on the team can see the score, the level of play rises, not only because they can see what’s working and what adjustments are needed, but also because they now want to win.
There are four questions to ask when determining if a scoreboard is likely to be compelling to the players:
1. Is it simple?
Think about how many pieces of data the coach is tracking on the sideline. Coaches need this data to manage the game, but the scoreboard on the field shows only the data needed to play the game.
2. Can I see it easily?
It has to be visible to the team. The results become personally important to the team when the scoreboard is displayed where it can be seen by everyone.
3. Does it show lead and lag measures?
The lead measure is what the team can affect. The lag measure is the result they want.
4. Can I tell at a glance if I'm winning?
If you can't tell within five seconds whether you're winning or losing, you haven't passed this test. Keep in mind that their engagement is not because the organization is winning, or even that you as their leader are winning: it's because they are winning.
Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
The fourth discipline is to create a cadence of accountability, a frequently recurring cycle of accounting for past performance and planning to move the score forward. Discipline 4 is where execution happens. Disciplines 1, 2 and 3 set up the game; but until you apply Discipline 4, your team isn’t in the game. This is the discipline that brings the team members all together. In Discipline 4, your team meets at least weekly in a WIG session. This meeting lasts no longer than 20 to 30 minutes, has a set agenda and goes quickly, establishing your weekly rhythm of accountability for driving progress toward the WIG. Here’s the three-part agenda for a WIG session and the kind of language you should be hearing in the session:
1. Account: Report on commitments.
“I committed to make a personal call to three customers who gave us lower scores. I did, and here's what I learned …”
2. Review the scoreboard: Learn from successes and failures.
“Our lag measure is green, but we've got a challenge with one of our lead measures that just fell to yellow. Here's what happened …”
3. Plan: Clear the path and make new commitments.
“I'll meet with Bob on our numbers and come back next week with at least three ideas for helping us improve.”
To prepare for the meeting, every team member thinks about the same question: “What are the one or two most important things I can do this week to impact the lead measures?” Remember that the WIG session should move at a fast pace. The WIG session also gives the team the chance to process what they've learned. You should often ask each team member “What can I do this week to clear the path for you?” Each commitment must meet two standards:
First, the commitment must represent a specific deliverable. Second, the commitment must influence the lead measure. If you simply tell your team what to do, they will learn little. What you ultimately want is for each member of your team to take personal ownership of the commitments they make. A Different Kind of Accountability The accountability created in a WIG session is not organizational, it’s personal.
Instead of accountability to a broad outcome you can't influence, it’s accountability to a weekly commitment that you yourself made and that is within your power to keep. When members of the team see their peers consistently following through on the commitments they make, they learn that the people they work with can be trusted to follow through. When this happens, performance improves dramatically.
The WIG session encourages experimentation with fresh ideas. It engages everyone in problem solving and promotes shared learning. 4DX produces results not from the exercise of authority, but from the fundamental desire of each individual team member to feel significant, to do work that matters and, ultimately, to win.
OKR VS 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX)
OKR and 4DX (4 Disciplines of Execution) are different titles. But they are similar in many ways. They shed light on setting goals and implementing strategies for both managers and teams. OKR and 4 Disciplines of Executionprovide focus, fit and engagement. On the one hand, both are simple. Therefore, it is easy to understand and apply. The difference of OKR and 4 Disciplines of Execution is how they form the strategy implementation process.
OKR can be considered both as a target core and a strategy execution framework. An OKR in itself is a Purpose and one or more Key Results. As a framework, OKR develops in line with a defined goal.
The top 4 principles in 4DX explain the structure, creation, and measurement of targets. In addition, Principle 4 defines a weekly review cadence and each review has a clear structure and time limit. This is different from OKR. Because the cadences in OKR are a graph. You set your annual targets (or monthly-weekly) and then make regular entries.
Unlike OKR, 4 Disciplines of Execution does not distinguish between strategic and tactical objectives. It works on 2 types of measures. 4DX also does not recommend specific time periods for which targets will be set.
In general, 4DX as a frame fits somewhere between OKR and SMART.
In summary, 4DX does not contain clearly set goals and timelines. But it focuses on goal setting, measurement and engagement that meet all the features of SMART.