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4DX - The Four Disciplines of Execution

Published by Scott Becker on
4DX - The Four Disciplines of Execution

A big goal without a system for getting there is unlikely to get done.

The Four Disciplines of Execution (or 4DX for short) is a systematic methodology for achieving your big, hairy, audacious goals.

The four disciplines are:

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important
  2. Act on the Lead Measures
  3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
  4. Create a Cadence of Accountability

Let’s unpack each of these and see what they mean.

1. Focus on 2-3 Wildly Important Goals

4DX calls your top priorities your “Wildly Important Goals.” As is often said, to achieve something, you must focus. There are a hundred things you want to do. But unless you focus, you’ll get none of them done. Necessarily, you need to narrow your focus. You can do the other items on your list later.

  • List all goals, prioritize the top three, and de-prioritize/postpone others until the top three are done
  • You can’t effectively multitask beyond that and expect to do well

Now that you’ve got your top priorities, let’s figure out how to get there.

2. Act on the Lead Measures

A lead measure is something that you can see is occurring now. Or it will occur in the future, sometime before the final outcome. It’s a checkpoint between start and finish, when you can do something about it.

A lag measure is the final result. What’s done is done, and you can no longer affect the outcome.

For example, take standardized tests.

The goal is a high score.

The lag measure is the final score result.

What are some lead measures?

Time spent reading and studying is a lead measure. Number of practice tests taken and their scores are lead measures.

Lead measures check progress during the transition from start to finish, so you can predict if you will hit the target and adjust the course to do so.

Lead measures can be visualized, so you can see if you are on target or getting off track. An example would be two trend lines, current reality and ideal, like a burn-down chart.

Identify what your lead and lag measures are, and make sure you know both. Once you have them…

3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

This boils down to broadcasting your lead and lag measures out to the team in a constant visible way, so they stay focused on achieving the wildly important goals.

  • People play differently when they are keeping score
  • Make sure everyone knows the score at all times, so they can tell if they are winning
  • Score board should tell them where they are and where they should be
  • Score board is for the whole team
  • Purpose is to motivate the team to win

Scoreboard recommendations:

  • Should be simple
  • Should be very visible
  • Should show both lead and lag measures
  • Should see at a glance who is winning/losing

Specific Examples

Tracking Work

  • Goal: 10 tickets completed by end of sprint. 4 tickets complete, 3 days left
  • Goal: Stay within time estimate for project. 20 hours remaining, 3 days left

Marketing & Sales

  • Goal: 1000 unique visitors this week. 423 so far
  • Goal: 50 new sign-ups this week. 58 so far
  • Goal: 10 conversions to paid accounts. 3 so far

Support

  • Goal: 100% of tickets given initial response in 24 hours. Past week: 100%
  • Goal: 100% of tickets resolved within 2 days. Past week: 83%

4. Create a Cadence of Accountability

Cadence and rhythm is the foundation of a successful system. Think about any machine—an engine, a computer, the human heart, an orchestra, etc. They all move according to a central driving frequency. Without it, none of them would function.

To make 4DX work, in addition to the first three disciplines, you will need a weekly meeting.

  • A frequently occurring accounting of past performance and a planning session to move the score forward
  • Only the wildly important goal is discussed
  • Accountability is not top down from/to boss, but to each member of the team

This wildly important meeting should be weekly, at the same day and time. Get out your calendar and schedule a recurring weekly time slot.

The whirlwind, i.e. everything else going on, is not to be discussed. A second meeting to discuss other items can be held right after.

Weekly Agenda

  1. Report: review previous commitments
  2. Review: check the scoreboard, look at lead and lag indicators
  3. Plan: clear blockers, make new commitments

Each person should pick one or two most important actions to take this week to move lead measures in the right direction.

In Conclusion

4DX is a system for achieving the hard things. Let’s boil it down to something your memory can hang on to.

In eight words:

  • Prioritize goals
  • Lead measures
  • Visualize score
  • Weekly cadence

In four words:

  • Prioritize
  • Measure
  • Visualize
  • Weekly

Reference: The Four Disciplines of Execution

| Photo by Isis França on Unsplash



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Scott Becker

Co-founder of Shoutbase and Olio Apps.

LinkedIn: @scottbecker

Twitter: @sbecker

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