Since its publication in 2012, The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals has helped companies large and small to close the gap between strategy and execution. Authors Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling developed this precise set of practices by coaching hundreds of organizations and thousands of teams over the years. Based on this experience, they determined that the key to creating lasting organizational change lies in changing human behavior, no easy task, and implementing these changes in the face of competing daily priorities, or “the whirlwind” as it termed in the book.
In the workplace, ambitious leaders often run up against the Law of Diminishing Returns, which holds that the more you try to do the less you will end up accomplishing. This means that leaders must learn to say no to new ideas until the results of an existing strategy have been achieved.
In other words, in order to execute efficiently, organizations must focus on less in order to achieve more.
Teams can do this by concentrating on what they want to significantly improve and tapping into the innate desire to win that exists within all of us. Following this step by step process will help translate strategy into action at all levels of an organization.
Discipline One: Focus on the Wildly Important.
Teams brainstorm all possible goals and then narrow that list down to the most critical objective, or Wildly Important Goal (WIG), that won’t be achieved without special focus. Each staff person will spend about 20 percent of their time on the WIG and the rest on day-to-day efforts.
Discipline Two: Act on the Lead Measures
Your WIG is a measure of the results you are trying to achieve, whether that is profit, market share or customer satisfaction, for example. In order to achieve your WIG, you must focus on the activities that drive the positive results you seek. This involves tracking weekly results and specific activities.
Discipline Three: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
Teams deliver their best results when members feel passionate about their work and know the score on how they are preforming. Creating a physical scoreboard to track the status of actions and results will help improve engagement and morale by kindling our innate desire to “win”.
Discipline Four: Create a Cadence of Accountability
Consistent action in the form of at least once weekly WIG sessions is where the execution of your goal plays out. These sessions are designed to address and solve problems, hold team members accountable to one another and commit to actions in the week ahead. This is the most critical Discipline, where accountability and follow through determine the ultimate success of your strategy.
It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind, but it is imperative that daily tasks not distract from the execution of larger goals. That’s why teams must commit to holding WIG sessions at the same time every week, no matter the urgency of competing priorities.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution approach has helped numerous companies transform their way of thinking and doing with exceptional results. Marriott, one of the world’s largest hospitality companies, has piloted the 4 Disciplines in its hotels in the eastern region of the United States with great success. In the first year of implementing this approach, the Marriott New York Marquis hotel achieved its highest ever results in guest and employee satisfaction, profitability and sales.
Managers love that it narrows and focuses the goals of a property and engages the whole workforce in the process of meeting those goals. The Director of Event Management at the Waterfront Marriott in Baltimore highlighted the “sense of pride around the responsibility that has been given to [employees] to control the destiny of this very big ship in very turbulent water.” At these hotels, everyone from the General Manger on down to hourly associates knew what the WIGs were and how they as individuals would contribute to achieving them.
By following the 4 Disciplines, organizations can bring about the change in behavior necessary for the successful execution of their most important strategic priorities. This is not a magic formula, but rather, one that requires focus, dedication, and accountability to achieving the goals each team sets for itself. In the ultra-competitive world of business, the 4 Disciplines of Execution can help organizations survive and thrive.
By Shirin Wertime, Research Associate for Women’s Executive Board