The first of the year is an exciting time to think about and work on the business. Creating a strategic plan can be exhilarating. The vision is set. The team is on the same page. Then work happens. It’s called a whirlwind; the urgent day-to-day activities of keeping the business running that devour the time and energy we need to invest in executing our strategic priorities to grow the business. It’s no different for us at United Catalyst Corporation.
What if there was an operating system that you could implement with your team in your company for executing strategy? Let me tell you about The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX). Developed by the folks at Franklin Covey and used by companies of all sizes worldwide, 4DX is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing on your most important strategic priorities in the midst of the daily grind. Chris McChesney, one of the co-authors of the book by the same title, calls 4DX a syringe. What Six Sigma and Lean are to manufacturing, 4DX is to executing strategy. What we like about 4DX at United Catalyst is that it is helping us create a winnable game inside our company. Everyone wants to play for a winning team.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution sound simple, take time to learn, but will make you win in business. The following are excerpts and take-aways from the book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals, (McChesney, Covey, Huling; Free Press, 2012)
First, Focus on the Wildly Important. The first discipline is to focus your finest effort on the one or two goals, Wildly Important Goals (WIGs), that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals. Multitasking is an illusion. We are hardwired to do few things at a time with excellence. With rich input from your team, brainstorm what is wildly important to your company. If 80 percent of our time is day-to-day, and cannot be changed, what are the one or two things we can focus the remaining 20 percent on, and if done with excellence, would be a game changer? When creating WIGs you must follow a few guidelines. No team focuses on more than two WIGs at a time. The battles you choose must win the war: lower level team WIGs must support and help reach the overall company WIG. Senior leaders can veto, but not dictate. Without involvement, you cannot create the high levels of commitment that execution requires. Every WIG must have a starting line, a finish line, and a deadline in the form of from
X to Y by when.
Second, Act on the Lead Measures. The second discipline is to apply disproportionate energy to the activities that drive your lead measures. Lead measures are “measures” of the activities most connected to achieving the goal. A lag measure, like revenue, tells you if you’ve achieved the goal, a lead measure tells you if you are likely to achieve the goal. This discipline is tricky because when we define a goal we want to create a detailed plan listing all the specific tasks and subtasks required for achieving the goal. These long-term plans often stagnate on a shelf after a few months. Discipline 2 requires you to define the daily or weekly measures, the achievement of which will lead to the goal. Lead measures like diet and exercise are the activities that lead to weight loss, for example. Weight loss, like revenue, are lag measures that measure the goal. Lead measures must be activities that can predict and influence success of the goal.
Third, Keep a Compelling Scoreboard. The third discipline is to make sure everyone knows the score at all times, so that they can tell whether or not they are winning. This is the discipline of engagement. People play differently when they are keeping score. A great team can’t function without a scoreboard that compels action. A compelling scoreboard must be simple, visible to the team, show lead and lag measures, and show the score. Without a scoreboard the game would be lost in the whirlwind and no one would care.
Fourth, Create a Cadence of Accountability. The fourth discipline is to create a cadence of accountability, a frequently recurring cycle for past performance and planning to move the score forward. Discipline 4 is where execution actually happens. Disciplines 1, 2, and 3 set up the game; but until you apply Discipline 4, your team isn’t in the game. In Discipline 4, your team meets at least once a week in a WIG session for no more than 20 to 30 minutes. WIG sessions have a 3-part agenda. Account: Report on commitments made verbally by each team member from the week before. Review the scoreboard: Learn from successes and failures. Plan: Clear the path and each team member makes new commitments.
Installing 4DX in your organization is no small feat. I want to challenge you. Grab the book, it’s excellent. Watch YouTube videos on 4DX. Look at businesses that are using 4DX. Like us, at United Catalyst Corporation, I think you will find that learning to execute daily and weekly across the company on the goals that are Wildly Important will engage your team and ensure a win in 2018 and beyond.
Becky Berube serves the precious metals and automotive recycling industry as President of United Catalyst Corporation, a North American processor of scrap catalytic converters and a precious metals management company. A company she co-founded in 1991. She is an Executive Committee Member of the IPMI Board of Directors and is Vice Chair of the Automotive Recycling Association’s Events Advisory Committee. Becky previously served as the North American commercial manager for Umicore Precious Metals Refining. She and her husband Tim have 3 young adult children, 1 son-in-law, and a 12-year-old Yorkie named Zoey.