4 Disciplines of Execution

Have you ever struggled with how to do something?  You knew what to do, but you just couldn’t figure out how to do it.  There is a big distinction between what and how.  Have you ever asked for advice on how to do something, and you just got more what?

The difference between what and how are crucial and often overlooked.  Its often easy to determine what needs to be done, it’s usually not as clear how to do it.  Strategies are easy to come by.  The strategy is the “what.”  How to execute the strategy is where we often get stuck.

In the book “Four Disciplines of Execution” the authors outline four “disciplines” for helping companies successfully implement high-level strategies.  These strategies close the gap between what and how and I believe are applicable to every ministry context.

If you have something important you want to accomplish and you have many competing obligations and distractions pulling at your time, energy and willpower these four disciplines can help.  Below is a summary of the 4DX framework.  If you find this summary helpful you should consider purchasing the book.

  1. Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important Goal (WIG)

The authors explain, “The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish.”  They go on to elaborate execution should be aimed at a smaller number of Wildly Important Goals, abbreviated WIGS.  By limiting your goals you focus your energy with a higher intensity to generate real results.

That means you should identify a small number of ambitious outcomes to purse with an inordinate amount of your time and energy.

  1. Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures

Once you have identified a WIG, you need to measure your success.  There are two types of metrics for this.

  • Lag Measures: The things you are trying to improve.  The problem with lag measures is they come too late to change your behavior.  The results are already in.  There is nothing you can do to change them.
  • Lead Measures: The lead measure, measures the new behaviors that will drive success on the lag measures.  As you increase this number, your lag measures will likely improve as well. Lead measures help you focus on improving the behaviors you can control in the near future that will have a positive impact on your long term goals.

If you want to increase the number of volunteers you have in your ministry from 5 to 10.  What steps, (lead Measures) must you take?  Some examples,

  • Identify a hit list of potential volunteers
  • Create an on-boarding process
  • Contact three potential volunteers and ask them to join your team.

These steps are examples of lead measures.

  1. Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

“People play differently when they’re keeping score.”  If you want to increase your team’s engagement toward your WIG, it’s important that they have a public place to record and track their lead measures.

The scoreboard creates a sense of competition that drives your team to focus on actions that matter.  It serves as a source of motivation.  As soon as you begin seeing success it will drive you and your team to perform even better.

  1. Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability

The final step to help maintain focus on the Lead Measures is to put in place a rhythm of regular meetings of any team that owns a wildly important goal (WIG).

During these short meetings the team members must confront their scoreboard, commit to specific actions to improve the score before the next meeting, and describe what happened with the commitments they made in the last meeting.

This meeting must be regular for its effect to be felt by the team. The authors argue that this discipline is where “execution really happens.”

Each person on the team would:

  • Report on the score for their Wildly Important Goal (WIG).
  • Describe what happened with the commitments they made in the last meeting.
  • Share with the team the specific actions they will take this week to improve the scoreboard before the next meeting.

The 4DX framework is based on the fundamental premise that execution is more difficult than strategizing.  Said another way, the HOW is more difficult than the WHAT.  

I have received some amazing results by implementing the 4DX model. I’ve:

  • became crystal clear on my goals.
  • created unavoidable feedback on my lead measures.
  • stretched and pushed to new levels that I had never achieved before.
  • increased the amount of time I spent focusing on the things that were most important.
  • focused on intentional incremental growth rather than bursts of growth.

The regularity of my successes increased dramatically.  I reached more goals faster than ever before.

What Do You Think?

In what area could you implement the 4DX model today?

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About the Author

Andrew VanDerLinden

Andrew is the Executive Pastor at Community Church in Eastern PA.

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