Pursue What Matters
Episode 169: Book Review – The 4 Disciplines of Execution
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you successful with your endeavors? Think about your strategic priorities. Do you get to the finish line? Or do your priorities fall by the wayside of daily work?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:15
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So are you able to execute on your strategic priorities? So whether that’s at home, or at work, hopefully, you know what your strategic priorities are? Hopefully, you have some big goals. So for many of us, we get excited about our big goals. But then, you know, we don’t achieve them, and why do we not achieve them? So usually, it’s not because we’ve daring greatly, and we’ve just fallen in a big, a big Firestorm, which, you know, there’s something for for daring greatly. But what happens for most of us, is our big goals just fall by the wayside, we forget about them, or we let the daily grind get in the way. We don’t want that to happen to you. So over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about making better decisions. We’ve been talking about the importance of aligning to purpose, mission and vision to help you to really move forward on your most important goals. And now today, we’re going to do a book review of the four disciplines of execution. This is by Chris McChesney, Strawn, Covey, and Jim shoeing. So there are three guys there, who wrote this book. This is an oldie, but I think it’s a goodie, I think it’s a nice little review. And really very helpful for those of you who have some big goals who maybe have a big stretch goal. And you’ve been disappointed in the past, because you haven’t gotten to the finish line, I think that there, therefore disciplines can be useful. So. So that is the way that I would recommend this book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:20
Of course, every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue it matters by strengthening your confidence to lead in one of three areas. So leading with clarity, leading with curiosity, and leading and building a community. And I think that this can be really helpful for both clarity so being clear on your goals and why they matter. But then also leading and building a community because you’ve got to execute, right, you’ve got a look at the daily work, one of the things that I’ve been talking about is balancing perspective and focus, right balancing the big picture, high level strategic priorities with the daily unfolding of the work. And I think that this book really gets to both of those very, very nicely. So let’s learn a little bit more about this book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:07
So the authors, all three of them, work for Franklin Covey, and Franklin Covey is a great leadership development company has been around for a long time. It has its roots in Utah. So I’m pretty familiar with it, here. And so these three authors all are associated with Franklin Covey. And so what I would guess is this framework is part of their leadership development. So those of you who have maybe done some work with them, or can some, some consulting with them, you might be familiar with this. And I’d love to get your perspective, maybe on Instagram or something to see what you think of it if you’ve had a chance to really work with this framework. But let’s hear what others are saying about this book. So this comes first from Stephen Covey, of course, the founder of of Covey, and then you know, Franklin Covey merged together. But Stephen Covey, his very famous as a leadership thinker.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:15
So in place of the top down control oriented management techniques of the industrial age, the four disciplines offer a release oriented knowledge worker age approach to executing goals and strategies and approach that engages people’s hearts and minds toward a common goal, unlike anything I’ve seen, truly a profound work. And I think, you know, that really points to one of the great things about Stephen Covey. He has given us so much insight about leadership and really leading to purpose. And I think he helped us to really engage not only people’s minds but their hearts. I think that is one of the great gifts that he has. He has given to To us, okay, and then let’s hear what Dave Dillon, who is the CEO of Kroger Company had to say, the four disciplines practical guidance on goal setting and measurement resonates with groups at all levels in our organizations, many teams have applied this initiative approach to build engagement and increase execution and accountability. So I think the best way to think about this, like it is a how to guide is it will give you a framework for executing on the goals. So this isn’t, you know, it probably won’t be wildly inspiring. Could be could be, but I think it’s like a very good framework if you if you need a little more help with execution on your goals.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:41
Okay, so this book is published by Simon and Schuster, and it first came out in 2012. So it’s been around for a while. Okay, so they open the book with a with a powerful points. So they say that there are two principal things a leader can influence when it comes to producing roles, results. So first, your strategy or your plan, and second, your ability to execute that strategy, which is pretty much everything. So they invite us to stop and ask ourselves this question, which of these do leaders struggle with more? Is it creating a strategy or executing the strategy? So every time they pose this question, they get the same answer. And it’s probably the answer that you gave. It’s definitely the answer that I gave, which is execution. Most of us have a hard time with execution. And then if you think about whether you did an MBA or business school, whatever, what did you study more? Was it execution or strategy. And I can have a very fast answer to that. You’ve studied strategy. So we’re trained to, to, to create strategy. But we don’t get enough focus on executing. And that’s right, that’s where we really look at the power of our teams, we can have the best products and services, we can have the best strategy. But if we don’t execute against that, we are not going to make a difference in the marketplace, we’re not going to be profitable, and we’re not going to be successful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:16
So these folks have worked with leaders across industries and many kinds of organizations. And this is what they say they have learned. Once you’ve decided what to do, your biggest challenge is in getting people to execute it at the level of excellence you need. And then they really look at why is execution. So difficult, right strategy can be pretty clear. But execution is challenging, because there are a lot of moving parts. We don’t always have alignment, we’re not always clear about the path forward, right execution is all about the how strategy is what strategy is why, but the how is the devil in the details. And so with this book, the authors are hoping to give you a very actionable plan that you can that you can use to increase your ability to execute on your goal. So they say that you will discover a set of disciplines that have been embraced by 1000s of leaders and hundreds of 1000s of frontline workers, enabling them to produce extraordinary results. And so let’s take a look at these four disciplines of execution. So as they start talking about the four disciplines of execution, they share a quote from Tim Hartford, the author of the undercover economist who said you should you show me a successful complex system. And I will show you a system that has evolved through trial and error. So right, nothing is perfect. But when we have a good framework, we can iterate against that we can improve our processes. And so I think that’s a helpful way to approach this not as like a very rigid, step by step process, but a framework to help you and your team to execute successfully.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:08
So let’s talk about discipline, one, which is focused on the wildly important. So this is what they have to say basically, the more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish. This is a stark, inescapable principle that we all live with. But somewhere along the way, most leaders forget this. And why do they forget it because smart ambitious leaders don’t want to do less, they want to do more, even when they know better. And so, you know, they argue that focus is a natural principle. It’s something that we need to pay attention to. And so, when you focus on the Wildly Important err requires you to go against your basic wiring as a leader and focus on less so that your team can achieve more. So when you implement discipline one you start by selecting one or at the most two extremely important goals, instead of trying to significantly prove everything all at once. And so this wildly important goal makes it clear to the team that this is the goal that matters most. And failure to achieve it will make every other accomplishment seems secondary or possibly even inconsequential.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:16
So that’s our first discipline, focus on the wildly important, okay, and now the second discipline act on the lead measures. So this is the discipline of leverage. So they say it’s based on the simple principle that all actions are not created equal. Some actions have more impact than others when reaching for a goal. And it is those that you want to identify and act on, if you want to reach your goal. So they say whatever strategy you’re pursuing your progress, and your success will be based on two kinds of measures, lag and lead, right, which most of us are familiar. So lag measures are the tracking measurements at the wildly important goal, they are usually the ones you spend most of your time praying over or worrying over. So think about revenue, profit, market share, and customer satisfaction. They’re all lag measures, meaning that when you receive them, right, so this is the important thing, the performance that drove them is already in the past. That’s why they’re lag measures. That’s why you’re praying right or worried. By the time you get a lag measure, you can’t fix it, it’s history. So now let’s think about what are lead measures, they’re quite different. And that they are the measures of the most high impact things your team must do to reach the goal. In essence, they measure the new behaviors that will drive success on the lag measures, whether those behaviors are as simple as offering a sample to every customer in a bakery, or as complex as adhering to standards in jet engine design. So they talk about the characteristics of a good lead measure. And there are two characteristics. First, it’s predictive of achieving a goal, and it can be influenced by team members. And so you want to pay attention to that. And they argue that acting on lead measures is one of the little known secrets of execution.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:11
So most leaders are too focused on the lag measures, that the discipline to focus on the lead measures actually feels counterintuitive. And so they you know, they’re not saying that lag measures are not important. And they see ultimately, they are the most important things you’re trying to accomplish. But lead measures, true to their name are what will get you to the lag measures. Once you’ve identified your lead measures, they become the key leverage points for achieving your goal. So I think that’s a really good perspective, focus on what you can influence down the road, you’ll have greater greater success as a result. And now let’s look at discipline three, which is keep a compelling scoreboard. Now, if you’re like, rolling your eyes at scoreboard, just hang in there. So what they say is that the truth of this statement is more clearly revealed by a change in emphasis. So people play differently when they are keeping score. It’s not about you keeping score for them. I think that’s actually a really important emphasis there.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:17
So discipline three is the discipline of engagement. In this principle, the highest level of performance always comes from people who are emotionally engaged. And the highest level of engagement comes from knowing the score. That is if people know whether they are winning or losing, it’s that simple. And losing or winning, right? Like you can decide as a team what that is right? Like, are we helping people to heal? Are we serving people in the community. And so it’s really important to have a game that you can win, right? A goal that you can achieve. And if you have good lead measures, good, right, good lag measures, and you have a wildly important goal, right? You have that very focused, that really sets you up to have a good clear scoreboard so that you can track your progress. And you can see if you’re winning, if you are actually achieving your goal. So they say that the kind of scoreboard that will drive the highest levels of engagement with your team will be one that is designed solely for and often by the players. And that’s probably different from a coach’s scoreboard. So it must be simple. So simple that members of the team can determine instantly if they are winning or losing. Why does this matter if the scoreboard isn’t clear, that game you want people to play will be abandoned in the whirlwind of other activities. And if your team doesn’t know whether or not they’re winning the game, they are probably on their way to losing.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:51
Okay, so that’s the third principle. So we will wrap up by talking about the fourth discipline which is To create a cadence of accountability. So discipline four is where execution really happens. The first three disciplines set up the game, but until you apply discipline for your team isn’t in the game. It is based on the principle of accountability, that unless we consistently hold each other accountable, the goal naturally disintegrates in the whirlwind. So when they talk about the cadence of accountability, it is a rhythm of regular and frequent meetings of any team that owns a wildly important goal. So think about daily standup meetings, think about project meetings, these meetings happen at least weekly, and ideally lasts no more than 20 to 30 minutes. In that brief time team members hold each other accountable for producing results despite the whirlwind. So they asked a question, why is the cadence of accountability so important? Why I have my own answer to this, but let’s see what they have to say. So what they say is the magic is in the cadence team members must be able to hold each other accountable regularly and rhythmically. Each week one by one, team members answer a simple question, what are the one or two most important things I can do in the next week, that will have the biggest impact on the scoreboard, that numbers report on whether they met the previous week’s commitments, how well they are moving the lead and lag measures on the scoreboard and their commitments for the coming week, all in only a few minutes. So they argue that the secret to discipline for in addition to the repeated cadence is that team members create their own commitments. It’s common to find teams, where members expect even want simply to be told what to do. However, because they make their own commitments, their ownership of them increases, team members will always be more committed to their own ideas than they will to orders from above. And so I think that’s really powerful, plus their commitments to one another. And we’re right, our teams are interdependent, we rely on each other. And so it, it helps us all to raise the level of our commitment. And so there you go, those are our four disciplines, one, focus on the Wildly Important to act on the lead measures. Three, keep a compelling scoreboard, and four create a cadence of accountability.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:18
So like I said, at the top, I think that this is a good framework. This would be a how to guide to really help your teams to be more effective on execution on really focusing on what matters, thinking about your one to two big goals or strategic priorities, and then executing against those. And so I think that this can be helpful. It’s use it that way. And it can certainly make your teams more effective, because right, as they said, most of us learn more about strategy, we’re more comfortable with strategy. But execution is our Achilles heel execution is where we really need need the help. And so I hope that that can be helpful for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:02
So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with all the great resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/169-4disciplinesofexecution. So one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/169-4disciplinesofexecution
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:37
So I think this is a good book if you’re looking for a little more structure, so that your team can be successful. So I hope you will connect with me on Instagram. I’ll have some good resources related to this book there. And I’d love to hear from you. We’d love to hear what you’d like to hear about on the podcast. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work in love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai