Advancement really distinguishes itself by how we focus on the difficult immediately, while the impossible seems to take a bit longer. Without exception, my colleagues in Educate Plus all seem to be in positions where there is the need to achieve wildly important goals.
I want to share some lessons from a book that a friend in Educate Plus recently pointed me to: ‘The Four Disciplines of Execution’ by McChesney, Covey and Huling.
It is a simple (but not easy) framework for ensuring that the most important work gets done and bridges the gap between strategy and execution.
You and I know that the biggest reason that we fail to execute on goals is “the whirlwind”. The whirlwind is the day job; it’s the things that must get done to get through the week. It destroys the execution of larger goals because it grinds you down (remember those New Year Resolutions?). But this book finds a way through the whirlwind, by recommending 4 specific disciplines.
Discipline One: Focus on the Wildly Important
Pick one critical goal (or at the most two). This is your Wildly Important Goal or WIG. It’s very difficult for most ambitious leaders to focus on only one goal, but this concentration of forces is necessary to defeat the whirlwind. The reality is that we still need to spend 80% of our time and effort on the day-to-day, but 20% should be focused on the WIG.
Discipline Two: Act on the Lead Measures
The second discipline is to focus on the activities that drive results i.e. lead measures.
To achieve the second discipline, we have to understand that in life there are LAG measures or LEAD measures. Lag measures describe results — what you are trying to achieve (targets, reunions, enrolments). Your WIG will be a lag measure. You can’t “do” lag measures, and they arrive too late. Lead measures, on the other hand, describe activities which can be acted upon. A good lead measure predicts success on the lag measure, and the individual (or team) has direct influence over it — it’s not dependent on anyone else.
Focusing on lead measures frees you up to focus on what you can do to make a difference and so pick your lead measures by what will have the most impact on achieving the WIG. Here is an example. If I want to lose 10kgs (lag measure), I need to eat less and exercise more (my two lead measures).
Discipline Three: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
To go the distance, you need to know, always, if you are winning…or losing. That is why you need a score card. Most people are like me – they play more seriously when keeping score. Without knowing the score, it is just too easy to be distracted by the whirlwind. Your scoreboard should be simple, visible, show both lead and lag measures (actions and results), and show at-a-glance if you are winning.
The aim is to create a winnable game; one that plays out every day. The feeling of winning, has the most powerful effect on morale and engagement — and it’s something the whirlwind does not provide well.
Discipline Four: Create a Cadence of Accountability
The first three disciplines prepare for the game; the fourth discipline is the game itself — it is execution. You must have a weekly in a WIG session for personal accountability, to clear the path ahead, to solve problems, and to commit to actions for the next week.
Like all disciplines, the urge to cheat is palpable, but through the 1,500 consulting engagements that form the basis of the framework, the authors warn us not to. They suggest that the four disciplines are a little “like the rules governing gravity: They aren’t concerned with what you think or with the details of your particular situation. They simply yield predictable consequences.”
Here is wishing you all the very best with your wildly important goals. If this resonated in any way, then watch this nice short video summary by one of the authors, Chris McChesney here. He explains it far better than I did… Then invest in getting your own copy of the book (available widely, including online). And drop me a note to let me know how you went.
Author Abhra Bhattacharjee President SA/NT Chapter,
As a passionate leader, with a participatory style of leadership, I use clear goals and my infectious enthusiasm to articulate an explicit vision that motivates and inspires staff (and volunteers) to create highly effective teams. I have exceptional communication skills and am experienced in reporting to Boards and executives on finances and business KPIs. As Director of Development, I develop and maintain key stakeholder relationships within our School community. I help facilitate and encourage financial support for the School.