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4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX)

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Many organizations are proficient at planning, but fall short when it comes to executing those plans, especially when emergencies take precedence over routine tasks.

Meticulous Strategic Planning can only succeed if executed flawlessly.  The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) is a Strategy Development framework designed to help organizations effectively implement and achieve their most important goals.  Developed by Franklin Covey, the objective of the 4DX model is to ensure that the strategy doesn’t just stay on paper but is translated into actionable and measurable steps.

A number of organizations have implemented the 4DX model, with excellent results.  The framework has the ability to bridge the gap between Strategy and Implementation, by providing a clear and proven formula for executing the strategic priorities.

The 4DX model focuses on the most critical strategic objectives, leveraging activities that inspire success, tracking progress, and upholding accountability to effectively transpire tangible results.  The framework engages all team members in the goal-setting and execution process, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to the outcomes. By instilling a rhythm of execution, the 4DX framework helps to create lasting changes in organizational behaviors that can drive ongoing results long after the initial goals are met.

Successful 4DX implementation requires a concerted effort from both the team and the organization as a whole. The 4DX framework is built on 4 key principles (or disciplines).

  1. Focus on the wildly important goal (WIG) – Discipline of Focus
  2. Act on the lead measures – Discipline of Leverage
  3. Keep a compelling scoreboard – Discipline of Engagement
  4. Create a cadence of accountability – Discipline of Accountability

Let’s dive deeper into the first 2 disciplines of the model.

1. Discipline of Focus: Focus on the Wildly Important Goal (WIG)

The first discipline pertains to identifying, prioritizing, and focusing on top strategic objectives.

Research reveals that not many employees are aware of the most important strategic objectives of their organization.  Executives should focus their attention on identifying and achieving a single, wildly important goal (WIG) rather than striving to pursue a gamut of objectives simultaneously.  It does not mean sacrificing the daily operations, but directing emphasis towards the areas where organizations wish to make substantial progress.

The prioritized, most wildly important goal (WIG) cannot be achieved during the course of routine business operations unless due attention, efforts, and resources are directed to it.  To define a WIG, executives should specify the current state, the desired state, and the deadline—with concrete, measurable metrics to evaluate progress.

2. Discipline of Leverage: Act on the Lead Measures

The next discipline is the discipline of leverage, which emphasizes the value of focusing on the key activities that drive the achievement of your primary goals.   The 4DX model distinguishes between two types of measures: “Lag” and “Lead.” Lag measures track the ultimate goal we try to achieve. They are called Lag measures because by the time the data becomes available, the result has already happened, e.g., a yearly sales report.  Lead measures are predictive and influence the achievement of Lag measures. They are the actions that drive success on Lag measures.

Most people fall into the trap of fixating on a Lag measure that they can’t directly influence.  A lead measure is like a lever that moves the team towards achieving their WIG.  In order to identify lead measures, executives should identify the two (or one) most crucial factors that can exert the greatest influence on the objectives.  The discipline emphasizes distinguishing between what is merely urgent and something that is genuinely important.  Lead measures should be consistently tracked, shared with the team for accountability, and adjusted based on results and feedback.

Interested in learning more about the other disciplines of the 4DX framework? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on the 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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