The 4 Disciplines of Execution Book Summary, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

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1-Page Summary of The 4 Disciplines of Execution


The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a book that teaches businesses how to succeed. It focuses on the commitments made by companies, and it helps them achieve those goals. The key to success in any company is for employees to be held accountable for their tasks, but not overwhelmed with new projects and responsibilities.

The first step is to identify one or two goals that would have the most significant impact on your business. These are things you can achieve in a few years. In the second step, these goals must be broken down into leading indicators that predict whether those goals will happen. The third step is creating a scoreboard so everyone can see how well they’re doing. The final step is for each person to report his or her progress toward their goal and leading indicator every week at a meeting with other employees who are working on similar projects, then discuss what needs to happen next week.

The four disciplines of execution are critical to the success of any business. It’s important for leaders to define their WIGs and lead measures, as well as train employees on how to implement these new strategies. Once the company has launched its plan, it must follow up with regular coaching sessions and quarterly assessments. FranklinCovey has helped many companies use these four disciplines in order to achieve their goals successfully.

Key Takeaways

The biggest obstacle to achieving goals in business is the everyday activities that are urgent but not important. The first step to pursuing a goal is narrowing down your list of goals so you can focus on only one or two of them. You need to set a time limit for each goal and also decide what exactly needs to be done by when.

In order to achieve an impactful goal, leaders need to make sure that it’s a WIG (wildly important goal). A WIG is something that has a big impact and gets input from both the leader and team members. It should also be measurable with regards to what impact the team and its leader can have on it.

The second step in execution is to identify lead measures that employees can affect and will predict progress toward the goal.

Lead measures are either specific behaviors or the outcomes of those behaviors. They must be high-impact, ongoing processes.

The third discipline of execution is to create a simple and comprehensible scoreboard that shows progress toward the wildly important goal. It’s also imperative for employees to keep track of their progress, celebrate when they win, and be held accountable by someone who updates the scoreboard regularly.

The fourth discipline is to hold weekly meetings where employees are held accountable for their progress on the lead measures.

The four disciplines are the key to implementing a WIG. The leader is responsible for this, and it’s important that they take the lead in defining the WIG and lead measures. They must also train their team members on these concepts, launch initiatives based on them, provide continuous coaching to their employees, and monitor progress every three months.

The leader is the one who can make or break a plan. He/she must be consistent, accountable, and focused on making sure that everything goes smoothly.

Key Takeaway 1: The chief obstacle to sustaining progress toward goals in a business is the whirlwind of everyday activity that is more urgent but less important.

Many special projects in business don’t last long enough to accomplish their goals because they are difficult to execute. They get buried under the daily whirlwind of activity and can be forgotten about. Instead of developing programs or strategies for managing the whirlwind, it’s better to make new projects so easy that they take very little time out of your day, which will allow you to still finish all other tasks.

The whirlwind of tasks can include any number of things, such as fire-fighting or dealing with inefficiencies. For example, Banner had to deal with negative business results and delivery that was on time only 53 percent of the time. There were also work losses equivalent to 4.1 percent of revenue due to material losses and rework. The company also had low levels of trust within the organization, little collaboration, and insufficient accountability in teams. The four disciplines help eliminate all those problems by taking away very little time from them while gradually reducing the need for rework over time.

Key Takeaway 2: The first discipline needed to pursue an important goal is to narrow the list of goals down to the one or two most wildly important. It is expressed as an action with a starting point, end goal, and time frame.

A wildly important goal is phrased as going from “X” to “Y” by a certain time. It’s best to have only one or two goals, because people often forget their other goals if they have too many of them. However, it’s important for companies to set many goals that can be accomplished within a short period of time.

Reducing commitments to the most essential tasks is a popular idea in self-help books. In The One Thing (2013), Gary Keller says successful people are those who focus on just one or two things that have the biggest impact. Focusing on those things ensures they’re applied efficiently, which makes them seem disproportionately productive. This book advises readers to turn down other goals that would be good to accomplish but aren’t as important at this moment. Other self-help books, including Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2014) and James Anderson’s The Simplified Diet (2011), advocate simplifying your possessions or diet. Some think you should relax the rules for success, such as Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection (2010). These four disciplines promise not to increase stress because they don’t take much time from what you already do every day.

Key Takeaway 3: A good wildly important goal (WIG) has a high impact and is defined with input from both leaders and team members. It is measurable and directly impacted by the team and its leader.

A WIG is something every team needs to have. It’s important for the whole team to be involved in creating it, so they can work together and get on the same page. If a department has its own WIG, then it should align with that of the company’s. A unique WIG can give a group more impact than if they pursued just their company’s goal because everyone will be more invested in accomplishing their personal goals as well as helping out with theirs.

For example, FranklinCovey worked with an unnamed US agency that delivered packages. It had a lot of issues because the economy was bad and there were problems in customer service outlets. The district leaders decided to implement the four disciplines of execution for each outlet so they could track their progress on long-term goals from the CEO’s objectives. For those areas, they chose employee satisfaction, retail operations, product operations, and customer service as key focus points. They also created WIGs (Wildly Important Goals) for each one that were customized to be most effective in each district. Each leader appointed someone to oversee every goal within his or her area so it would get done properly across all teams and outlets.

Key Takeaway 4: The second discipline of execution is defining the lead measures that employees can affect and that will predict progress toward the wildly important goal.

Most company indicators are lagging measures because they indicate the company’s previous performance. However, leading indicators can predict future performance and which employees can directly impact.

In construction, leading indicators are used to predict injuries. The most important goal is reducing the frequency of injuries. One way to do this is by measuring attendance at morning meetings, which can be influenced by workers and predicts future incidents.

Key Takeaway 5: Lead measures are either specific behaviors by employees or the outcomes of those behaviors, but regardless they must be high-impact, ongoing processes.

Lead measures are short-term results that can be measured by impacts. They measure the behaviors needed to achieve a goal or objective, and they must be high-impact indicators. Employees work on lead measures to improve them, which will cause lagging indicators to improve over time.

In personal life, for example in learning a new language, small outcome indicators would be the ability to translate words on flashcards and minutes spent reading or conversing in the target language. If people have WIG of being able to hold simple conversation within three months, they might plan both those lead indicators with goal of memorizing 20 new vocabulary words each day and 30 minutes of reading or speaking in the target language every day. These leading indicators are directly impacted by regular practice and commitment; they’re key to increasing capability with a new language. They are also easy to measure.

Key Takeaway 6: The third discipline of execution is creating a simple and comprehensible scoreboard that shows employees’ progress toward the wildly important goal and the lead measures relative to the projected progress needed to succeed.

When employees are engaged in a project, they’re more productive. They also tend to work harder when they know that their performance is being measured and compared with others. It’s important to keep score on projects by creating dashboards of data for executives. This way, progress can be tracked easily and the team can see how well it’s doing against its goals.

As the manager of a steel mill, Charles Schwab created a simple scoreboard to encourage competition between the day and night shifts. He wrote down how many heats were completed by each shift in chalk on the floor. The day shift would erase that number and write another one higher than what they did before. This motivated them to work harder so they could get better numbers at the end of their shift. Eventually, this led to more production than other mills had produced that year.

Key Takeaway 7: It is important for employees themselves to keep score and to celebrate when they win. Someone must be responsible for keeping the scoreboard up to date.

Each week, employees must present to each other what they did to advance the lead measures and WIG (Wildly Important Goal). They also make commitments for the coming week. Regular meetings ensure that employees hold each other accountable. The scoreboard should be updated regularly by a team member so that everyone can tell right away whether the team is succeeding. Scoreboards without accountability will be abandoned over time and cease to motivate the team. Strong teams that are motivated by their scoreboards celebrate victories along the way. Many data visualization platforms give users the ability to connect to an actively updated data source, making it easy for individuals to update their lead measures through a shared data file, which would then display progress on a connected visualization dashboard hosted on an accessible network intranet page in real time. If employees consistently record their progress and refer back to this scoreboard whenever they have weekly WIG sessions (Weekly Incentives Game), it could automatically detect when they’ve reached their goals or failed them completely with just one click of a button; if they fail, it might even adjust itself automatically based on how much more work needs done before reaching success!

Key Takeaway 8: The fourth discipline of execution is to schedule regular weekly meetings that hold employees accountable for their progress on the lead measures and encourage them to make their own commitments for the coming week.

The weekly sessions are a way to hold each other accountable. They’re also an opportunity for the team members to help one another out and celebrate their successes.

A WIG session is a short meeting that focuses on the most important goals of an organization. In order to keep these meetings effective, the leadership should outline how much time they allotted for each step of the agenda and be aware that new teams might need more time. The team leader can also take a moment during the meeting to indicate what will be discussed at their next meeting in order to make sure people do not go off topic or spend too much time trying to identify who is responsible for barriers.

Key Takeaway 9: Implementing the four disciplines is a process for the whole team but is driven by the leader. It requires six steps, from clearly defining the WIG and lead measures to training leaders, launching the initiative, constant coaching, and quarterly updates.

The four disciplines work best when they are implemented across multiple teams. The first step is to define the WIG, which should be a lead measure that all teams will focus on. Teams then collaborate on what their scoreboards and weekly WIG sessions will look like. Leaders in each team are trained to facilitate the four disciplines within their own teams, particularly by facilitating the scoreboards and conducting weekly WIG sessions. Once this has been established, leaders continue to receive coaching in facilitation as they execute the disciplines within their own teams over time. Every quarter, leaders from different departments come together for a summit where they discuss how well each of them have executed the four disciplines and whether or not progress is being made toward achieving goals set out at the beginning of the year (WIG).

When a Navy captain wanted to improve his ship’s performance, he decided to use FranklinCovey’s four disciplines of execution. He started by measuring the gap between where they were and where they needed to be in each discipline. Then, he trained everyone on the new way of doing things before announcing what would become the three WIGs (which are goals) for the first phase of improvement. He also identified leading indicators for those WIGs based on how top performers did their jobs, built scoreboards that showed progress toward those indicators, and held accountability meetings with everyone involved so that no one could hide from responsibility for their part in improving results.

Key Takeaway 10: Common obstacles to implementation can be avoided with consistency, accountability, and focus enforced by the leader.

When you try to change the culture of a business or organization, it’s not easy. You have to make sure that people are on board and understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. To do this, you need buy-in from everyone involved in the project and ongoing accountability for their progress. It’s important to keep track of goals (WIGs) so that everyone knows where they stand and if/when things aren’t going well, there needs to be a way for people to be held accountable for those shortcomings.

Mission creep is a common problem in new projects. A project can lose focus as it adds extra features and ideas to the original goal. If no one steps in to rein the scope of the project, then it could change entirely by the time it’s supposed to be completed. It’s important that a leader has complete control over any mission creep tendencies early on so team members are held accountable for pursuing their goals consistently.

Book Structure

The book The 4 Disciplines of Execution is written in a confident tone. It gives advice and instruction to leaders who are trying to make decisions. This book has examples that show how the disciplines can be applied at home or work, such as by setting family goals or raising children.

The authors rely on surveys conducted by FranklinCovey as well as anecdotes from business leaders. The citations are at the end of each chapter, so it’s easy to find the source for each claim.

The book is filled with examples of companies that implemented the four disciplines and testimonials from people who implemented them. The examples usually name people and their employers, such as global leaders in their industries.

The book has many diagrams and tables to illustrate the principles. The authors also emphasize that FranklinCovey’s online tools can help readers with their progress tracking, accountability, etc. The whole process of creating and refining these disciplines is discussed in detail as well. It doesn’t really say when the four disciplines would be a poor fit or not work at all.

The book’s authorship is unclear. The book also features anecdotes from people who aren’t listed on the cover, and some of them are written by writers not listed on the cover.

About the Author

Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling are executives at FranklinCovey. They came to the company after implementing its programs in their own businesses. The three authors were heavily influenced by Stephen Covey’s classic book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Full Summary of The 4 Disciplines of Execution


At the start of every year, many people make resolutions to change their lives. They get a gym membership and decide they’ll have abs by summer. But then February rolls around, and they’re as lazy as ever. Why is that? It’s because we fail when it comes to execution.

The same is true for companies. Being capable of change makes them succeed, but they have to execute on their ideas in order to do so. So how should we go about doing that?

There are four key points to consider when trying to improve your execution and reach your goals. They aren’t about screaming at employees or implementing draconian rules. If you learn these four disciplines, it will become clear what your most important goals are and how you can change people’s behavior.

In this article, you’ll learn how whirlwinds are related to reaching your goals; why vague goals won’t help you get to the moon and back; and why it’s important to have a scoreboard in the office.

Big Idea #1: Getting people to change is the real challenge of executing strategic goals.

Change is good, especially for businesses. Why? Well, if you aren’t changing and improving your business practices, someone else will take over the market share you have. Here’s how it works: You can either change your company by implementing new policies or you can change the way people act within that company to improve business practices.

It’s easy for executives to write things down and make changes. They just have to sign a document and someone else will take care of the rest. However, these actions are only temporary fixes that don’t last long. Making lasting change requires people to change their behavior, but most people find it hard because it involves changing yourself or others.

It’s important to make sure your employees understand the company goal and how they can help achieve it. It’s also important for them to care about the company goal, as well as their role in achieving it.

It may seem like there are easy solutions to these problems. You can just hand out descriptions of the company’s goals, be precise about each team member’s responsibilities and fire anyone who doesn’t care about their job. However, those aren’t the real issues at all; they’re just symptoms of a much more complex problem.

All of these things that you’re trying to do are called the whirlwind. It’s a term used by authors to describe all of the tasks that take up your time and drain your energy. The whirlwind is also a big obstacle in making change happen because people will spend more time doing urgent tasks than they will on important ones.

It’s difficult to achieve a goal in a stressful, fast-paced environment. However, you can do it by mastering four disciplines: the right goals, the right people on your team, the right process for achieving those goals and finally accountability. We’ll explain each of these in greater detail later on.

Big Idea #2: Focusing on specific, wildly important goals is the first discipline of execution.

The first discipline of execution is to focus on what matters, or one WIG. Most executives are overachievers, so they have a tendency to strive for more than one goal. However, this actually hinders them from focusing their energy and attention on the most important goals. If you’re going to achieve something truly excellent, you need to concentrate your efforts toward that single goal.

For example, a WIG is a goal that will help you achieve your vision. One example of that is cutting costs by 20 percent in the next year. However, it’s important to remember when coming up with these goals: they should be specific and have an enormous impact on your team’s performance.

Specificity is important because a WIG should be different from a vision or mission statement. It’s more about outlining clear goals that everyone will work toward.

Specificity can be very powerful. This is shown by NASA’s goal in 1958 of expanding “human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and in space.” In 1961, President John F. Kennedy called on NASA to put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade. As a result, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 21, 1969.

As the NASA example shows, it’s important to find ways to make a major impact. You don’t want to work on something that won’t really change your business for the better.

Big Idea #3: The second discipline of execution: meet your goals by choosing measures that reflect current behavior.

As we’ve learned before, you have to focus on achieving important goals. To do this, you should concentrate on measures that help you win and not those that make you feel bad when you fail them.

This is easier said than done. Most people naturally focus on lag measures, which show how you are doing relative to your goal. Profit margins and customer satisfaction rankings are examples of lag measures. Focusing on these indicators can be disheartening because they reflect past events that you cannot change anymore. For example, if someone wants to lose weight, it’s not a great idea to wait until the end of the month to jump on the scale and measure their progress in losing weight. If they don’t meet their goal by then, they’ll feel like a loser and there will be no way for them to do anything about it at that point in time.

To achieve your goals, you should focus on lead measures instead of lag measures. Lead measures are more relevant because they reflect current behavior and can still be influenced to help meet the goal.

When it comes to losing weight, the number of calories you consume and the amount of exercise you get are great metrics to track. They’re predictive of your goal, since if you monitor those two things, then you’ll most likely lose weight. These factors are also directly under your control.

We all know that the path to weight loss involves eating less junk food and exercising more. However, knowing this information is not enough. It’s important to track your progress using lead measures so you can see how what you are doing now will help you reach your goal in the future.

Big Idea #4: Motivate your team by keeping score of their performance: the third discipline of execution.

The first two disciplines were about defining your goals and the metrics that will help you achieve them. The third discipline is about helping your team members get on board with those goals, so they’ll be more motivated to help you achieve them! To do this, have your team keep score of their own performance in order to improve it. This will make people more engaged because winning feels good, like when there’s a prize at stake.

When you watch kids play football in the park, you can tell whether they are keeping score by how excited they get when one team scores. That’s why your company needs to keep track of everyone’s progress on their WIGs (Wildly Important Goals). Whether it is an online tool or a chalkboard, people need to know where they stand so that they can improve and achieve their goals.

To motivate people, you should create a scoreboard that’s easy to understand and act on. It should also include lead and lag measures, along with essential information about where the team should be and where it is in reality. With all this information clearly laid out, every team member can tell whether they’re winning or losing at a glance.

One of your goals is to increase productivity by 20% in the next year. To do this, your team needs to meet certain performance measures on a monthly basis. Therefore, you need to set up a scoreboard that tracks these metrics on a regular basis so your team isn’t blindsided if they don’t hit their target every month.

Big Idea #5: The fourth discipline of execution is establishing a culture of accountability.

With the third discipline, we learned how to motivate staffers to be part of our team. The fourth discipline is about making them commit long-term to our goals and vision.

In order to make this happen, you need to let your employees talk directly with each other. If they don’t have the ability to communicate with their colleagues, then they won’t be as accountable.

That’s why it’s important to hold weekly WIG meetings. These sessions should include: 1) a review of the commitments from last week, 2) an update on the scoreboard and 3) plans for next week.

In order to guarantee steady progress toward the goal, every team member should be responsible for setting weekly commitments and meeting them.

It’s important to allow employees to choose their own goals, as they will be more engaged in the process. As a leader, your role is simply to make sure that those goals are specific and directly related to the WIG (Wildly Important Goal). An example of this working well is Town Park valet parking services company. They decided on increasing customer satisfaction as their WIG (Wildly Important Goal), so they chose “reducing retrieval time” as a lead measure. The team came up with an innovative solution: rotating cars from the back of the parking lot to the front whenever it was known that someone would soon call for one.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution are crucial to success. However, that doesn’t mean you can just read about them and expect to be successful. It takes hard work and commitment to implement the 4 Disciplines of Execution in your own workplace. Read on for tips!

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Big Idea #6: Follow a step-by-step process to implement wildly important goals and identify useful predictive measures.

The four disciplines (WIGs) can be difficult to implement in the workplace at first, but it’s worth the effort! Here are four steps you can follow:

Begin by talking to as many people as possible. Gather information from both leaders and staff members to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the situation.

The hotel chain decided to improve its relationship with local sports and culture venues. It thought that would help the restaurant and hotel make more money, which would ultimately help them meet their profit goals.

When you’re setting your goals, be sure to align them with your overall vision. For example, if you want to open a restaurant, then don’t do it just for the sake of having another restaurant. Do it because you have an idea that will make your customers happy and give them what they want. Once you’ve set those goals and know exactly what they are, test them to ensure that they’ll actually work in achieving your goal or WIG. Then come up with a simple definition of the goal so that everyone is on the same page about what needs to happen by when.

Big Idea #7: Follow through on introducing a scoreboard and creating a cycle of accountability.

In the previous key point, we saw how to install the first two disciplines. The third and fourth are more of a challenge because they can’t be installed in such a methodical manner. However, some kind of plan is required to introduce them.

The third step is the easiest. You just need to come up with a scoreboard that shows how you’re doing towards your goal. The theme can be anything, such as a speedometer or bar chart.

Then, have your team build the board. This will make them more engaged in the process. Also, a good scoreboard should only include essential information: the goal and lead and lag measures. Once it’s built, appoint someone to update it regularly.

The fourth discipline is to create a culture of accountability. It requires the leader to set an example for others by showing up at meetings and being dedicated.

Start the meeting by reporting on your own commitments. Then, make sure to review the updated scoreboard and celebrate every success.

Remember that the whirlwind is not related to WIG meetings, and hold people accountable if they don’t meet their goals because of it.

If someone does not meet a commitment, it is important to be respectful. Let them know that you value their work but explain that it is crucial for the whole team to follow through on their WIG commitments. Then, make sure they have time to catch up on those commitments.

Big Idea #8: Follow a six-step process to involve all departments in the Four Disciplines model.

If you want to implement the Four Disciplines at a large organization with more than ten departments, plan your approach by following these six steps:

First, set a clear objective.

Once you have the top level goals, involve your team leaders and let them choose their own goals. Make sure they align with the bigger picture, though.

First, teach the team leaders about the Four Disciplines model. After that, they should get their teams together and explain how this process works. They should also ask for feedback from their departments to make sure everyone is on board with it.

In the fifth step, teams work on perfecting their method. Ideally, department heads should get additional coaching for at least three months.

In addition, you should set up quarterly meetings with your team leaders to discuss the progress of the organization.

And with that, you’ve implemented a process to achieve your goals.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Book Summary, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

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