This is the 4th Article in the Strategy Execution Series. Previous articles linked below:

  1. Series Kickoff
  2. Why is Execution So Hard?
  3. Modern Principles for closing the Strategy Execution Gap
How well does your Strategy survive when it’s time to Execute?

Simply put: leaders are responsible for executing business strategy. Successful leaders rely on proven methods that enable consistent execution of the organisation’s most important objectives. In our experience, any such methods must be simple to understand and should be founded on evidence-based principles.

The Four Disciplines of Execution is a reliable method for accomplishing what’s most important. These disciplines are best explained via a series of questions

1. What is the most important thing we can do to achieve the strategy?

This is the Discipline of focusing on the ‘wildly important’. Leaders must step back and understand which is the most important goal and then double-down on achieving it by using the next 3 disciplines.

2. What are the critical activities that we believe will lead to achieving that goal?

This is the Discipline of Lead Indicators. For example, if I want to lose 5kg I don’t need to measure my weight. That’s a Lag Measure – and by the time I see it there’s nothing I can do to influence it. I need to measure the #of calories I eat and the amount of exercise I get. Those I have control over and measuring those Lead Indicators will help me achieve the goal.

3. How will we know if we’re making progress?

This is the Discipline of keeping a Compelling Scoreboard. A simple scoreboard must be visible to help the team understand how the Lead Indicators are trending and see how they are impacting the Lag Measures. One of my clients has a goal to increase revenue by 35% by 2023. To accomplish this the sales team believes they must be more visible at the client sites (note: this is what the Sales Team believes, not someone else telling them what to do). So, instead of measuring $sales per person (Lag Measure) they are starting to track Lead Indicators such as #site visits per person. In fact, they are now tracking the # of site visits requested each week. This behaviour (‘requesting’) is 100% in each salesperson’s control. As they track this, the team will see the correlations and understand which salespeople are most actively engaging the critical activity of speaking with clients to request site visits.

4. How will we help one another succeed and hold ourselves accountable?

In this Discipline the team members ask themselves: “What 1-2 things can I do this week to specifically push against the Wildly Important Goal?” The team leader hosts a 20-minute meeting every week where this question is asked and answered by every team member. These commitments are captured and tracked for discussion at the next meeting. The level of commitment shown to one’s teammates is far greater than what people hold themselves accountable to and greater than anything ‘the boss said to do’ can generate

Leaders who want the confidence of a systemised approach to execution will be drawn to the 4 Disciplines as an “execution platform”. Implementing the 4 Disciplines requires a structured approach to think critically, involve others, and establish a cadence of goal-oriented team discussions. These disciplines become habits in just a few months as teams hold themselves accountable for the process and results. Motivation lifts as the team sees their weekly actions moving the Lead Indicators and ultimately the Lag Measures.

LinkedIn Discussion: These methods are based on a globally-recognised approach pioneered by Franklin Covey. What methods do you see working for execution?

Lighthouse Group