The 4 disciplines of execution® (4DX) is brought to us by FrankilnCovey who also brought us Stephen R Covey’s book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective people®.  The 4 disciplines of execution®, authored by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney and Jim Huling, explains that 4DX is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing your most important strategic priorities. 

They tell us it’s not a theory – this is a set of practices that have been tried and tested.

4DX introduces us to the concept of the ‘Whirlwind’, which is a representation of the important/urgent activity needed to run the every-day functions in your business. 

The whirlwind of day-to-day activity can suck up attention and make it difficult to focus or make any progress on your strategic priorities.

4DX gives us 4 disciplines to help focus efforts towards the strategic aims;

  1. Focusing on the Wildly Important
  2. Acting on Lead Measures
  3. Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard
  4. Creating a Cadence of Accountability

Focusing on the Wildly Important

4DX establishes that focusing on everything can stop you from achieving your overall strategic aim.  They suggest that by focusing on less you can help your team achieve more.  When implementing discipline 1 the idea is to select one or two goals that are extremely important to you. 

4DX calls this a Wildly Important Goal (WIG).


Trying to improve everything at once whilst also maintaining the whirlwind makes achieving anything of value extremely difficult.

4DX acknowledges that the whirlwind will continue, it will always be there demanding attention day-to-day to keep it going, they stress that their intention is not to reduce the size of the whirlwind, although that may be a side effect of achieving your WIGs.

When you have a lot of areas to work on and an idea of where you would like to your business to be, it may seem counter-intuitive to stop trying to make improvements in every area. 

However, 4DX highlights that if you or your team to take on a large number of goals on top of the already powerful whirlwind of the day job – you are significantly reducing your chances of achieving any of those goals with excellence. 

Working towards one goal at a time allows focus and makes it more likely that it will be achieved with excellence.

4DX gives a framework to organise this on an organisation level.  Your WIG may not be something that every level of your organisation can directly effect. 

4DX acknowledges this and suggests that the overall WIG for you is the war you’re engaged in.  To support you; your leaders, teams, and departments need to identify and work towards their own WIGs to help you achieve yours. 

They’re fighting the battles to win your war!

Acting on Lead Measures

Photo by Marcus Cramer on Unsplash

This is my favourite part of the 4DX framework – it was a real ‘ah-ha’ moment for me when I read about it! I spend the best part of my time looking at various numbers and measures assessing performance against the relevant key indicators, but as 4DX explains, performance indicators such as; revenue, profit, customer satisfaction are all lag measures. 

Which means that they are measuring the outcome of something that’s already happened i.e. the customer has already had their interaction with your business and have provided their feedback – the opportunity to influence their opinion and satisfaction has gone and you can’t change the outcome! 

If you take a moment to think about the key performance indicators you track in your business I’m sure you’ll realise, as I did, that they are all (or almost all) lag measures. 

4DX highlight’s the benefits of tracking Lead Measures.  Simply put – this is measuring the actions and new behaviours that will drive success – rather than the output of that success. 

I cannot provide a better example of this than the scenario provided in the 4DX book, so I won’t try!! Here’s there example; 

“A good lead measure has two characteristics: it’s predictive of achieving the goal and it can be influenced by team members… consider the simple goal of losing weight.  While the lag measure is pounds lost, two lead measures might be a specific limit on calories per day and a specific number of hours of exercise per week.  These lead measures are predictive because by performing to them, you can predict what the scale (the lag measure) will tell you next week.  They are influenceable because both of these new behaviors are within your control.”

The 4 Disciplines of Execution, McChesney, Covey, and Huling, 2012

Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

This discipline is all about engaging your teams and acknowledging that people play differently when they’re keeping score.

We are all invested in the numbers differently – my top priority is cashflow, making sure money is always moving and maintaining a real-time view of the cash in the business, unfortunately not a lot of people share my passion for this! 😜

Most people care about revenue and the total value of money brought in – we both care about the money we just care about it differently.

4DX emphasises the importance of making sure your team’s scoreboard is designed by them, for them to maximise their engagement and drive, to achieve the goals. 

The idea is to strip away the complex levels of key performance indicators and make the scoreboard simple, and easy for teams to know whether they are winning or losing at a glance. 

Create a Cadence of Accountability

This is arguably the most important discipline.  It’s about holding each other accountable for progress against the goal.  4DX tells us to hold a rhythm of regular and short meetings. 

There is no hierarchy in these meetings, everyone takes turns to say whether they achieved the action they agreed to do, and to set a new action to be completed by the next meeting.  

There is no space for long excuses, or reasons why an action wasn’t completed.  If an action wasn’t done then it should be done by the next meeting along with a new one.  This sets a firm no-nonsense approach to embedding accountability in the organisation.  

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

This is a brief summary of some of the main concepts of 4DX, if you would like to learn more you can buy the book here: The 4 disciplines of execution®.  If you are interested in implementing a business operating system in your business please get in touch today!