Life experience distilled

How to really make it happen – The Four Disciplines of Execution


Q-1DERFULOk, so I have heaps on my plate with my new job, but I really wanted to share this with you so I’m going to knock it out quickly as this is really worth sharing.

Last week I was fortunate to be in a day workshop with senior management led by Patrick Un from Frankin Covey. Franklin Covey is an organisation which focuses specifically on the Execution of strategy. A valid point was made in our discussions which identified that most Degrees or Masters courses are focused on what to do in business, but often not specifically how to execute it.

The theory is that we’re all so often caught up in the Whirlwind of our day jobs, that we don’t get a chance to focus on the Wildly Important Goals (WIG) which will make a big difference to ourselves and the business in the long run. As a result it is fundamental to schedule in a handful of one hour slots to focus on our Wildly Important Goals every week. To know what to do, we simply respond to the question: What are the 1-3 things I could do this week which would have the biggest impact in my business (life, relationship etc), then use those one hour sessions to focus on those things.

How do you eat 5 tonnes of potatoes? One at a time.

So here are the summary points of the 4 Disciplines of Execution or 4Dx.com

Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important

You can have no more than 1-3 WIGs for the same team at the same time because statistics say if you aim for:

  • 1-3 you’ll achieve 1-3
  • 4-10 you’ll achieve 1
  • 11-20 you’ll achieve 0.

For all you Creators out there, take heed from the words of Tim Cook, Chief Operating Officer of Apple, “We say no to good ideas every day. We do this to make great ideas happen.”

Discipline 2: Act on the Lead measures

Lead measures differ from Lag measures insofar as Lead measures measure what you do to get the result of the Lag measure. For example, the number of calls you make to make a sale are measured in the Lead measure. The Lag measure would be the number of sales you made or the value of those sales. This discipline suggests that you act on the activities which give you the result (i.e. make calls) and not concern yourself with the result itself. The Lead is the lever, the Lag is the rock: focus your attention on the lever. Also, Lead measures are characterised by being predictive and influenceable whereas Lag measures measure the goal and are generally easier to measure.

Discipline 3: Create a compelling scoreboard

The scoreboard helps you and your team see how well you’re doing and is a measurement system for the first two disciplines.

The scoreboard itself has a few criteria as it must be compelling. It should be:

  • Simple
  • Visible to the players
  • Show the lead and lag measures
  • Tells us immediately if we’re winning or losing
  • Must be engaging

For morale purposes, remember that if we feel happy and that we’re winning, we’ll contribute more. It is important to note that you should be measuring the right things for this to be effective.

Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability (BTW ‘cadence’ in French means ‘pace’)

This discipline is fundamental to this process working. It suggests a weekly meeting where each team:

  • Reports on last week’s commitments
  • Reviews and update the scoreboard and
  • Makes commitment for the next week.

There you go – the Four Disciplines of Execution …. simple, but not necessarily easy.

Ok I’m done.

Hope that was useful for you and remember to ask yourself each day or each week – What are the 1-3 things I could do today to make the biggest impact on my vision/live/family …

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what this article has made you think.

  1. David Hernandez says:


    I am currently working as curriculum coordinator for a district. I am looking to apply the four disciplines to education. Is there any information in the area education, in regards to teacher training and application in the classroom for management with students? If so or not is there someone that I could work with to achieve some meaningful training. I am involve with “The Leader In Me” program from Franklin/Covey. I am just trying to help young people who are struggling to grow, develop and become happy and productive.

    Thank you

  2. David says:

    Hi David, I’ll send you a message and see if I can connect you with someone to help or some materials. Cheers

  3. Trent says:

    Thanks for sharing this David. It was helpful for me to better understand the process and how the 4 disciplines fit together.
    Also, it was interesting to note that ‘cadence’ in French means ‘pace.’ In Spanish, the word ‘cadena’ means ‘chain,’ and since I know Spanish, I had always thought of it more from that perspective. What do you think of that?

  4. Jennifer says:

    Hi David! I so wish that I can attend this training. I’ve just missed this training in my country (it’s once a year only, can you believe it?) and I know about 4DX couple of weeks ago. Currently, I’m reading this book and I hope to apply these steps at work. Have this helped you yet?

  5. David says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I hope you enjoyed the book and I know that if you use these simple steps, you may not need the whole training.
    Try it out for a couple of weeks in your own life, or for some work goals and see how you go. Let me know.

  6. David Hernandez says:

    I have been studying the four disciplines and motivational interviewing and how we can use them in education in and out of the classroom. I am applying these concepts to assist teachers in implementation. Are their any resources for use with students and teachers?

  7. Neil says:

    Yes. I love it… just found out about this book… very eloquent. Thank you for the overview.

  8. David says:

    Glad you enjoyed it and Thanks – I use the ideas on a daily basis and have found them extremely useful. Even if all you do is choose 1-3 things to do each day.

  9. Ezekiel says:

    Very informative and fantastic article and very clearly explained. Great Job!
    I really like this kind of useful information.
    Very useful information. Great Job!

  10. Alex Raymond says:


    Great post on a very interesting topic. Too often, high-growth companies get sidetracked trying to “put out fires” and consider themselves too busy to focus on the key actions to drive the business forward. Having only 1 to 3 goals scares some managers that I know, but you’re better off nailing those than under-delivering on a bigger number.

  11. David says:

    Hi Alex,
    thanks for your response and I agree. We get so caught up in the whirlwind of life that we forget the game we’re playing. I haven’t posted this for a long time as I haven’t quite completed it, but the part about the game of life may be of interest for you. http://justchoosesomething.com/



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