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The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX)

Summary & Implementation Guide

There is a near universal challenge in business. It’s this, strategies are less effort to create than the effort needed to execute them. The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) framework gives companies and teams a way of creating strategically aligned goals, PLUS a way to execute them. 

99% of the time we have each quarter is usually spent on execution not goal planning so having a framework to guide execution has a huge impact.

4DX achieves performance gains by giving you the structure to focus on what matters most, based on having clarity on how success will be measured. It then gives you the cadence to keep your focus and momentum going on an ongoing basis.

We talk a lot about BAU take-over at ZOKRI, and the inevitability of it happening if you don’t have the systems, processes and cadence to keep that particular monster at bay. It really is the one of the biggest and most dangerous of the strategy killers.

You should therefore consider the 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) a strategy and execution framework that can help you, and it should be considered alongside other frameworks like OKR, as it has many of the same ideas and principles embedded. We talk more about the differences between 4DX and OKR below.

The framework’s credentials come from its creators and the authors of the book – The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Like with OKR, it has its big logo users and many other smaller companies that you are less likely to hear about. In fact the authors say they have worked with 1500 companies on 4DX.

 

Chris McChesney

ZOKRI
 
Chris McChesney is one of the creators and authors of the 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX). Chris is also the Global Practice Leader of Execution for Franklin Covey.
 

FranklinCovey is the consulting firm where 4DX was not only designed and developed, it is where it continues to be refined. Implementations of 4DX at Franklin Covey, include:

  • Marriott International
  • Ritz Carlton
  • Coca Cola, Comcast
  • Lockheed Martin

Chris is still on a mission: to help organizations get results through improved execution via consultancy and via keynotes and speaking engagements.

 

Sean Covey

ZOKRI
 
Sean Covey is both a Brigham Young University (BYU) and Harvard Business School graduate.
Today he is the President of FranklinCovey Education in addition to being the Executive Vice President of Global Partnerships where he oversees international operations.
 

 

Jim Huling

ZOKRI
 

I’m the Managing Consultant for FranklinCovey’s 4 Disciplines of Execution.

As FranklinCovey’s Managing Consultant, Jim is responsible for the 4DX methodology and the quality of delivery worldwide.

Jim still regularly leads large-scale engagements, in addition to doing keynote speaking engagements.

What is 4DX?

The 4DX disciplines explained

The reason why 4DX works well and is effective is it has both structure and discipline build in by design in a non ambiguous way. This makes it easy to follow.

  • Discipline # 1: Focus on the Wildly Important. This is the discipline of focus.
  • Discipline # 2: Act on the Lead Measures. This is the discipline of leverage.
  • Discipline # 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard. This is the discipline of engagement.
  • Discipline # 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability.

Let us look at each of these in turn.

 

Discipline # 1: Focus

ZOKRI

Focus on the Wildly Important.

Like with OKR the company needs to create their Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) – ideally no more than three. These are your top priorities.

Once they are locked in they then need to be communicated with teams. Choose any more than three WIGs and the chances of achieving all of your goals becomes less likely.

Teams can then create their aligned WIGs. The rules / guidance on creating these WIGs are as follows:

  • Rule #1: Focus – Do not choose more than two WIGs as too many WIGS dilutes efforts.
  • Rule # 2: Support – Team WIGs must directly support Company WIGs.
  • Rule # 3: Bottom-up Autonomy – Team can choose their own WIGs with Senior Leadership on having the power of veto (can refuse to approve) but the final say is with the team.
  • Rule # 4: Structure – All WIGs must be written using the structure From X to Y by [date] or if the WIG is a big strategic project use 100% complete and milestones as the goal. Both of these are supported by ZOKRI.

There are 4 easy to follow steps to help you create focused goals. They are:

1. Create a list of possibles

In teams and in cross-team groups, with the company WIGs in view, list all of the opportunities and challenges that need resolving and the goals you might consider and that addresses them. Good questions include:

  • What related to customers and the value you provide needs to be better?
  • What’s broken and needs to be fixed?
  • What is working but if it was made to work much better would have a huge impact?
  • What would a strategic achievement be? e.g. Launch product X

For example, imagine an enterprise software company with a top level WIG of:

  • “Increase Sales Revenue from Large Enterprise Companies From $X to $Y in 2022”.

This was chosen because of its material impact on the sales funnel, both for new leads but also conversion rates.

Then imagine teams were asked to brainstorm and debate possible aligned WIGs like:

  • The Sales team ideas include:
    • “We need more quality leads”
    • “We need to be top right in the Gartner Magic Quadrant”
    • “We need to be more competitive against product X”
  • Product team ideas include:
    • “We need to create more usage amongst our enterprise customers”
    • “We need to build the features we’ve promised to big customers”
    • “We need to speed up roadmap velocity”
  • Engineering team ideas include:
    • “We need to upgrade our infrastructure”
    • “We need to hire 10 new developers”
    • “We need to launch features X, Y, and Z plus anything new that comes our way”
  • Customer Success ideas include:
    • “We need to make sure all Tier 1 customer QBRs are completed”
    • “We need some big logo reference customers that are prepared to be interviewed”
    • “We need to develop closer relationships with our biggest clients”

2. Create an order

With the goals that would have the greatest impact at the top and least at the bottom, order your possibles by impact.

 

3. Select & write fill WIG statement, with targets & check again

Does your WIG pass these criteria:

  • Does the proposed WIG have a measurable From X to Y by [date] structure or if the WIG is a big strategic project use a % Complete?
  • Is this WIG going to be driven by the team, not just the team leader?
  • Do you need significant resources (over 20%) from another team and have you their commitment to providing that resource?
  • Does your WIG align with other teams and help them achieve theirs?

 

4. Sign-off and Execute

If you’re happy, commit and start to execute.

In ZOKRI you can manage the whole proposal, collaboration and sign-off process. Even editing the questions, guidance notes and commentary that goes with the process.

4DX WIG Examples

As a reminder, the company level WIGs that teams were asked to align with was:

  • “Increase Sales Revenue from Large Enterprise Companies From $X to $Y in 2022”.

This was chosen because of its material impact on the sales funnel, both for new leads but also conversion rates.

After listing possible WIGs, robust discussions and checks, the narrowed down and agreed WIGs for the example teams above were:

  • Sales team – “Increase BDR generated Large Enterprise SQLs from 75 to 150 per quarter by 31 March 2022”.
  • Product team – “Move from Gartner’s Challengers Quadrant to the Leaders Quadrant by 31 March 2022”.
  • Engineering – “Release the 2 features that matter to Gartner to be considered a Leader by 31 March”
  • Customer Success – “Propose 5 Gartner interview candidates by 31 Dec”.

Each team agreed that these WIGs will not only support the company WIG but also aligned with each other.

 

Discipline # 2: Leverage

ZOKRI

Act on the Lead Measures.

Most leaders and managers are acutely aware of lagging measures or indicators that not only keep you in business, but make your company healthy. Examples of lagging measurements would be revenue, retention, and customer satisfaction or NPS.

Lagging measurements move slowly and what 4DX needs you and every team to do is consider what the lead measures are that drive these. Lead measures are the metrics that you can influence that will result in changes to these lagging indicators.

Through the lens of a Sales team that targets new revenue, this might be them target and track lead measures like:

  • Prospects Identified
  • Emails Sent
  • Sales Email
  • Email Engagement
  • Calls made

So they might create an “Action” to increase the average daily calls made by the team from 50 to 150 calls a day.

Acting on lead measurements will not tell you whether you have hit your WIG, but they will predict that you will hit your WIG. The more you drive lead measures, the faster you will change your lagging measurements.

Through the lens of a customer team that targets revenue, retention and customer satisfaction this might track lead-measures like: time-to-value, product usage, reviews, case studies, QBRs completed, proactive customer spot-checks / check-ins.

There are 4 easy to follow steps to help you create leveraged goals. They are:

1. Brainstorm

To narrow down to the best lead measures to act on you’re going to need to consider all of the possibles. The best way of doing this is to brainstorm them with your team. Don’t worry too much if you don’t track that measure now, you might be able to in the future and create a baseline from which you could set a target.

 

2. Agree

Considering all of the lead measures you proposed which would have the greatest impact on your company WIG?

 

3. Check again

Do your lead measurements pass these criteria:

  • Predictive – does the measure predict change in a lagging measure?
  • Influenceable – can your team directly influence and change the lead measures?
  • Measurable – can you measure or start to measure the lead measurement?
  • Maintainable – can you update the measurement frequently and track progress?
  • Impactful – are you sure that if you succeed this is going to make a big impact?

 

4. Sign-off and Execute

If you’re happy, commit and start to execute.

ZOKRI is where you can list the actions and lead measures you’re committed to and then makes it easy to track progress.

You can also track lead measures as KPIs. KPIs can be live in or outside goals / WIGs, owned by an individual, be connected to teams, be tagged with Lead and Lagging labels, and be updated manually or via a tool integration or spreadsheet.

4DX Commitments

Every week you’re going to need to come up with 4DX commitments. This means that teams need to propose a few things from active work, the backlog of old ideas, or new ones. With the most important selection criteria being they will impact the lead measures.

Which of course means commitments are not a list of all of the things that are important. This is because not everything that is important in a week influences WIGs or Lead Measures. In fact, much of the important work that people do relates to business-as-usual jobs and everday business operations.

 

Bringing It All Together

WIGs, Actions, and KPIs, and the weeks aheads commitments can be seen on every employee’s ZOKRI Home Page.

 

Discipline # 3: Engagement

ZOKRI

Keep a Compelling Scoreboard.

Teams should already be feeling engaged because not only have they created their WIG goals, they have been involved in creating their targeted lead measures. They should also be feeling a strong sense of goal ownership which is also critical. You know you need to keep the momentum going and make WIG goals and lead measure progress visible in an easy to understand format.

“People don’t try as hard if no one’s keeping score”

As with all disciplines of 4DX, ZOKRI’s OKR platform makes this easy and has multi scorecard views to help with progress charts, target lines, RAG (Red, Amber, Green) alerting and more.

These scoreboards then need to be updated weekly. ZOKRI helps there with reminders, easy update workflows, alerts that ensure these updates happen and everyone knows the score.

If you don’t commit to keeping score and planning the week aheads commitments then the everyday will take over from the strategically important.

 

Discipline # 4: Accountability

ZOKRI

Create a cadence of accountability.

Regardless of the framework, achieving a cadence of where goals and progress are discussed in teams, plans made, and problems resolved need to happen, without any exceptions.

There is also some important psychology at play here. When people know the meetings are going to happen and progress will be discussed, they are more likely to work on goals and fend off other demands on their time.

The meetings need to be:

  • The same day and time every week
  • Short and mandatory, ideally no more than 30 minutes

Good agendas include:

  • WIG and lead measure progress and any issues / problems being faced
  • Report on last weeks commitments and celebrate wins
  • Discuss and decide on next weeks commitments

 

The Best Way Of Scheduling & Running 4DX Weekly Meetings

With ZOKRI you can schedule the meetings and everything you need will be on screen to run the meeting without ever needing to create a slide or report. ZOKRI will even mark attendances, allow you to take notes, assign actions and send a post meeting contact report.

The 5 Steps To Getting Started With 4DX

Step #1: Set your top level company WIG using discipline 1

Step #2: Choose Team WIGs and Lead Measures using discipline 1 and 2.

Step #3: Ensure everyone is updating WIGs and Lead measures using discipline 3

Step #4: Start having your weekly meetings and never miss one using discipline 4

Step #5: At the end of the quarter, run a retrospective, grade success, capture learnings and start the cycle again.

4DX vs OKR

You can see the similarity between 4DX and OKRs. In fact 4DX and SMART have lots of similarities as well. After all, they are all trying to achieve similar things. The key differences being 4DX and OKR is that with 4DX there is clear guidance on:

  • Goal Count – the number of Key Results i.e. no more than two (which could be one OKR).
  • Goal Format – from X to Y by [date] is more restrictive than OKRs that have that as one of the possible measurable outcome types. Which to be clear, does not make this framework worse, and it could be argued that it makes it better.
  • Goal Sign-off – there is rule based autonomy i.e. OKRs have no clear guidance on who can veto or sign-off an OKR.
  • Lead Measures – OKRs don’t push teams towards acting on lead measures although they do have the concept of OKRs and Initiatives. But with Initiatives they are not guided towards acting specifically on Lead Measures. There are pros and cons to this.
  • Commitments – Agile teams will be used to deciding and committing to priorities across time frames like a week or fortnight. Agile teams often use OKRs as well. OKRs don’t offer specific guidance on using the two together, although there are obvious benefits. So in that way, 4DX is better as it really has understood effective executional processes, not just goal setting.

 

Which is best, OKR or 4DX?

ZOKRI obviously supports both or lets you create your own hybrid with the best bits of both. What matters most is that you adopt the core principles contained in both.

The 10 common principles that both OKRs and 4DX implementations use.

  1. Set a few top level strategically aligned goals that unify everyone.
  2. Allow teams to autonomously decide how best to align their important goals around those.
  3. Don’t blend Day-to-Day, BAU / Business Ops – just do that work.
  4. Set goals that use measurements that matter.
  5. Fewer goals are better than lots.
  6. Track KPIs alongside goals and goal clarity and team performance improves.
  7. Separate Outcomes and Outputs – what you want to achieve (the goal) and how you’re going about achieving should not be the same thing.
  8. Set weekly priorities and celebrate wins.
  9. Set an update and meeting cadence and stick to it – ideally weekly.
  10. At the end of the quarter run retrospectives, learn and kick-on.

Our advice is try one or both and see how you get on, but commit to being great at the 10 points above.

All of them are powerful, together they are rocketfuel.

 

4DX Software

ZOKRI is an OKR tool that allows companies and teams to not just use 4DX successfully, adapt it to work for them. With ZOKRI you get these benefits:

The 4DX goal cycles run way more smoothly.
Every step requires less time and team overhead.
You achieve much higher levels of engagement when compared to document and spreadsheet alternatives.
You reduce the time it takes to establish the behaviours and habits you want.
Performance across every team improves as do your lagging measures!