One of my favourite execution methodologies is The 4 Disciplines of Execution. I was fortunate enough to go to the founder’s workshop last year and let me tell you, it has had game-changing effects on myself, my team and our clients.

Chris McChesney and Sean Covey (Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) conducted research on the topic execution with over 200,000 leaders and organisations in participation. This enormous study found that the art of execution involves executing on the wildly important goals in the middle of a 100-mile-an-hour, whirlwind day.


DISCIPLINE 1 Focus on the Wildly Important Goals                                                                                                                        Set yourself up by choosing 2-3 goals that involve the fewest battles to win the war. Keep it really simple by ensuring each goal has a start, end and timeline. For example: Increase profit from 10% to 15% by 31st December 2020. These goals need a special focus otherwise they won’t be met and will instead get caught up in the whirlwind.

Create an 80/20 rule for managing your time between the “whirlwind” of the day to day, the everyday business (80%) and the “wildly important goals” (20%). Research has shown if you have 2-3 goals the probability of success is very high but any more will reduce your chances of success. Too many goals kill execution. This is hard for those of us (myself included) who are attracted to shiny toys!

DISCIPLINE 2 Act On Lead Measures                                                                                                                                                     In this crazy old life we lead we’re limited with time and resources. The art of execution is to act on lead measures not lag measures. Lead measures must be predictive and influenceable..

As an example, recently I finally lost my baby weight (woo hoo!). The lead measures in this scenario were the number of times a week I exercised and the number of calories a day I consumed. The lag measure here is the number of kilograms to lose. Focusing on the kilos won’t shift the weight but the execution of exercise and mindful calorific intake will. Spot the difference?

In a sales context this could be the number of meetings, calls, proposals, demos or trials it takes to complete the sale – not the sale itself or revenue. Execution doesn’t like complexity, keep it simple.

DISCIPLINE 3 Keep a Compelling Scoreboard                                                                                                                                  Research has found people perform differently when there’s a score being kept. This one I can vouch for! I’m someone who gets seriously competitive once the scoreboard comes out in a family game of cards. Create a simple and even fun scoreboard to track progress against the wildly important goals.

Keep your scoreboard somewhere highly visible; mine sits on my desk so it’s constantly in my face. If you have a team, have each member commit to one task per week they can perform to contribute to the wildly important goal. A tip here is to allow the team pick their own contribution. Giving ownership breathes engagement and commitment to the cause. Ensure it is a winnable game so the team feel motivated and that it is achievable. 

DISCIPLINE 4 Create a Cadence of Accountability                                                                                                                          In order to ensure everyone is held accountable, I suggest setting up a weekly 20-minute meeting to cover:

  • Progress on the previous week’s commitment
  • Update the scoreboard
  • Set new commitments

In our consulting business, I often see teams that are not convinced their management will stick to the new activity and will perceive it instead as a fad. Accountability gives something value – no fads allowed! If you work autonomously and don’t have a team, you can still do this to hold yourself accountable. I make time each week to review my own progress. Lock in your own meeting with yourself and assess your progress.

Why not try adopting these disciplines and let us know how you go!

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