How To Achieve What Is Most Important-The 4 Disciplines of Execution

July 17, 2017

How To Achieve What Is Most Important-The 4 Disciplines of Execution

We hear a lot about the importance of vision in the leadership world. How to cast it, frame it, communicate it, and even how to engage others with it. As important as vision is, the real metric of success is whether or not you can execute.

I read an article recently that claimed only 8% of leaders had the capacity to cast vision and then be able to execute it. Based on other studies, the greatest challenge most leaders face is in the execution of whatever strategy or goals they have. (The resource I'm introducing has some of the studies I'm alluding to here).

The primary reason execution is fraught with so many minefields is because it is rooted in change. Most of all, behavioural change in people. As a church leader, the importance of understanding and facilitating change in people is an intrinsic part of the faith dynamic.

Regardless, even a church has the challenge of executing its mission, and without a keen understanding of what gives vision legs, we can get caught up in a lot of activity but with little strategic progress. It was one of the dilemmas we were faced with.

As I was researching the problems of executing well and looking for potential systems we could use in our church I came across The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling.

It was what I was looking for. It addressed firstly the tensions surrounding the ability to execute well while following up with a four step process for moving any kind of strategic vision forward. The following is a brief overview of the book.

Without getting into much of the book's preamble, two things I can say here is that the book deftly communicated the difficulties of instituting change, especially behavioural change, and recognizing the reality of the whirlwind.

The whirlwind is their terminology for execution's greatest enemy; your day job. What I appreciated about this book was the recognition that a massive amount of energy is spent just managing the day-to-day responsibilities that ironically keep most of us from executing anything new.

In the church world, as with most organizations, the whirlwind is what robs you from achieving many of your goals and aspirations for moving your team forward. If you've ever felt stuck, this may be the resource you've been looking for.

Here is a brief description of the four disciplines.

Discipline #1

Focus on the Wildly Important

  • This is the discipline of focus.
  • It forces us to commit to one, maybe two overall priorities.
  • Too many goals create needless complexity and diminish resources and energy.
  • There are lots of good ideas, even great ones, but they’re not always worth pursuing.

Discipline #2

Acting on Lead Measures

  • This is the discipline of leverage.
  • All actions are not created equal and developing lead measures are those behaviours that help achieve the goal(s).
  • They are somewhat predictive and can influence the lag measures.
  • A lag measure is an “after-the-fact” measurement. For instance, if you are trying to lose weight, a lag measure is the number of pounds lost. Lead measures would be the amount of calories you limit and the amount of exercise per week. The lead measures affect the outcome of the lag measures.
  • The lag measures are ultimately the most important measurement – revenue, attendance, etc., but lead measures become the leverage for achieving the goals.

Discipline #3

Keeping a Compelling Scorecard

  • This is the discipline of engagement.
  • In principle, the highest level of engagement comes from those who are emotionally engaged and from those who know what the score is – i.e., whether we are winning or losing.
  • This scorecard is created by the players and is simple in order to project clarity.
  • If a team doesn’t know whether it is winning or losing they are likely on their way to losing.
  • This discipline is contingent on the first two. The greater the clarity the more compelling the scorecard.

Discipline #4

Creating a Cadence of Accountability

  • This is the discipline where execution really happens.
  • The first 3 set up the game, but until this discipline is evoked you are not yet in the game.
  • It is based on frequent meetings (20-30 mins.) that hold team members accountable for producing results, regardless of the whirlwind.
  • Team members create their own commitments and become part of the accountability structure of the team.

There you have it. A summary I hope you find helpful. Our personal venture into the 4DX system (the short form given in the book), is relatively early. The majority of users are in the business category and there are some challenges in the non-profit sector for such a system.

Hopefully as we build this into our church we will do a follow-up post to let you know how it works. For now, if you feel like you're stuck in the mud and looking for a resource to help you with practical insights for moving forward, this just may be what you've been looking for.

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