Breaking Through the Whirlwind: Book Review of The 4 Disciplines of Execution

StrengthsFinder 4DX Review Feature

As from the mouth of a world-class entrepreneur friend, “This book is one of the best we’ve read.”

In our Business Book Club (a.k.a. accountability for me to actually read the books that I say I want to read!), we have read a lot of stellar books and some mediocre ones—a couple of which I’ve reviewed and mentioned here as well. Concepts of Leaning In, Essentialism, and Storytelling lace my world and my business.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution (by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling) will go down as another with influential power on the way Isogo operates and (hopefully!) the way that I lead.

So, in lieu of you sitting with us in the Book Club this past week, I am laying out the essentials of What the Book is About, the Key Value that resonated with me, A Couple Misses I Foresee, The Strengths Connection, and how I am Putting the WIG in Action @ Isogo.

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The Bottom Line: What The 4 Disciplines of Execution is About

Within the frenetic business pace we keep, there is a systematic, accessible way to strategically and effectively execute—to realize the goals we set and the dreams we have. That is the foundation of the 4 Disciplines of Execution (or 4DX, as the authors call it).

It is possible, they say, because the 4 Disciplines are based not on practices, but on principles. Just like the life work of Franklin Covey says that there are principles that govern human behavior, there are principles that govern successful business processes and execution.

These 4 Disciplines, in summary, are:

1) Focus on the Wildly Important :: Your chances, they say, of achieving 1-3 goals with excellence are high. However, the more goals you have to pursue, the less likely you are to meet ANY of them with excellence. So the first discipline is about mining for 1-2 “Wildly Important Goals” — or your WIGs. Those 1-2 WIGs become your principle focus.

2) Set Your Lead Measures :: Apply disproportionate energy to the activities that drive your lead measures—or those activities that have a predictive and influenceable impact on the lag measures (those measures at the end of your goal that say whether you’re successful or on track). This Discipline defines leveraged actions that will enable you to achieve the WIG.

3) Keep a Compelling Scorecard :: This is the Discipline of engagement. Make sure that everyone knows the score at all times, that they can instantly tell whether or not they are winning. The most successful scorecards are simple and crystal clear, most often developed by the team, from the bottom up.

4) Set a Cadence of Accountability :: This cadence includes a commitment to a weekly WIG session—a short, intentional meeting that establishes a recurring cycle of accounting for past performance and planning to move the score forward.

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Key Value

Throughout the book, I found myself saying something like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it—set priorities and move toward them.” However, when I really let the content soak in, I would realize that the principled, singular approach was much more well-defined and clear than just “setting priorities.”

In the midst of the 4DX process, I was especially won over by the authors’ willingness to admit and address the sometimes overwhelming nature of the the daily tasks that face each of us in business. Those daily tasks—the things that MUST be done for the business to continue to function—are what they call the whirlwind. They do not under value, under appreciate, or under emphasize the reality and necessity of the Whirlwind. Rather, 4DX exists AND SUCCEEDS in the midst of the Whirlwind.

Part of the unique nature and impact of this book comes in the way it is structured. While the first third of the book addresses the principles and concepts behind 4DX, the final two-thirds act as a manual for putting it into practice, including stories of success and challenge by others, step by step instructions, worksheets to guide the process, and a well-developed section of Frequently Asked Questions and challenges.

By the end of the book, the sense is very much like I have just seen into the mind of an extremely bright and experienced consultant, and he has just downloaded his best instruction on making a change in my business.

A Couple Misses I Foresee

In the midst of the brilliance of the concepts and application, I find myself foreseeing my own challenges in implementation. Despite their recognition of the impact and power of the Whirlwind, and the necessity of jumping into 4DX WITHIN the Whirlwind, I find myself still resisting.

The Whirlwind sucks up my moments of strategic thinking, so much so that as a leader, although I can see the WIG reward ahead, the work of pulling myself from the Whirlwind long enough to establish a WIG process is quite overwhelming.

Then, in a related line of thinking, as a solo-preneur with an extremely small team (the Great Annie who works part time and myself!), I predict challenge in holding myself accountable to the 4DX process.

StrengthsFinder 4DX Book Review

The Strengths Connection

As with almost all conversations and insights I experience, I cannot help but filter all concepts and experiences through the lens of Strength and Talent. As a naturally wired Executor, OF COURSE this makes sense and is inspiring to me.

However, what about those who are wired for Influence, Relationships or Thinking & Planning? I wondered, throughout, how well this concept would resonate with their natural way of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Fortunately, the Business Book Club provided the opportunity to test this idea. As we processes together, we surmise that 4DX works for each domain (or Seat on the Bus as I call it!), for a variety of reasons.

Executing :: The most natural fit, those who have strong Executing talent, likely see 4DX as a streamlined and sensible way to stay focused, and drive toward the goal even more efficiently. Because executing is a way of life for these folks, just learning that there is a more systematic and effective way to get things done is energizing to them.

Influencing :: Those with strong Influencing talent likely resonate with the high action, high communication, and high accountability nature of 4DX. Because they naturally urge to move forward, make both the process and the success known, and find increased success in impact and influence, 4DX provides them with the structure that gets the entire team on the same page to do just those things—as they meet weekly in efficient and action oriented team meetings.

Relationship :: For those folks who live and breathe from Relationship talent, 4DX becomes and opportunity for increased cohesion among the team. Weekly meetings inspire active collaboration and the freedom to express the challenges and relational needs of the team in their pursuit of the WIG. The singular approach gives them a team, and consensus orientation, that fuels their engagement.

Thinking :: Finally, for those on the team who thrive with strong Thinking talents, the 4DX approach provides the opportunity for both creative and analytical thought processes as it seeks insight and ideas to meet their strategic objectives. 4DX allows them to have a sense of ownership in both the overall (WIG establishment) and weekly (actions associated with the lead measures and scoreboard), which allow them the mental space to thrive.

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Putting the WIG into Action @ Isogo

There is much of 4DX to be put into action at Isogo. Despite my reservations about getting off track and feeling a sense of overwhelm by the Whirlwind, the principles and disciplines have already begun to impact our weekly processes and overall mindset.

The WIG Impact :: Even in the midst of reading, I was able to quickly identify our top two priorities at Isogo—our most wildly important goals. These two priorities are primarily project based—our new Instagram account (which is a lot of fun to join btw!) and the 9 Steps to Life Change in your Marriage & Work course that is forth coming in May (based on the 9 steps from this blog post). I still have a ways to go, however, to be sure that I am defining these two most wildly important goals in terms of the specificity and achievability they prescribe: “from X to Y by when.”

The Weekly Meeting Impact :: While the WIG is not yet perfect, I immediately saw the value in making sure that our team (as small as it may be) is on the same page about our priorities, in a systematic way. In our weekly meeting, beginning last week (so we’re all of 2 in a row so far), I was intentional about setting apart the first section of our meeting agenda only for the WIGs, while the Whirlwind checkins are scheduled to follow. Already, I have seen the impact of reserving specific time to clarify the actions we have taken on the WIG and what our next steps will be (BEFORE we get overwhelmed by the Whirlwind!).

We have a long way to go before we are really doing justice to the 4DX process, but we are well on our way, and it feels good to find renewed energy and expectation for impact here at Isogo.



Links & Resources

The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling
Franklin Covey
Lean In | Essentialism | The Storyeller’s Secret
ITV Episode 37 | Eradicate Frustration in Your Team Part 1 :: Get It Done
ITV Episode 37 | Eradicate Frustration in Your Team Part 2 :: Be Heard
ITV Episode 39 | Eradicate Frustration in Your Team Part 3 :: Hold It Together
ITV Episode 40 | Eradicate Frustration in Your Team Part 4 :: Set the Vision
{9 Steps} to Life Change through your StrengthsFinder Top 5 Strengths
Strengths on the Bus {FREE} Infographic
StrengthsFinder + Strengths Startup

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As always, one of the best places to join the Strengths conversation is over at our Facebook Group — Energy Up Frustration Down by Strengths. Join us as we all try to figure out just how to use our Strengths to impact the most important things around us—in our work and life.

If you’re thinking about the way a Strengths-perspective could impact your marriage or your family or you’re just not so sure about it all, reach out, and let’s connect about it. You can catch me at FacebookTwitter or Instagram, all at @isogostrong, or by this handy contact form.

Enjoy your day, and {be strong}!

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