The 4 Disciplines to Execute on Your “Wildly Important Goals”

“If you ignore the urgent it will kill you today. If you ignore the important it will kill you tomorrow.” Sean Covey

We all know the importance of not allowing the urgent to take our focus off the important. We also know how difficult it is to actually do this.

This is why The 4 Disciplines of Execution is such a helpful book. These 4 disciplines provide:

“a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing on your most important strategic priorities in the midst of the whirlwind.”

Below is my 286-word summary of the disciplines and how to put them into practice.

1. You must focus on a wildly important goal (WIG).

The WIG is that one thing that if you failed to achieve would make any other success seem secondary. Don’t be distracted by lesser goals, or be tempted to pursue multiple important goals — it isn’t possible. This WIG should be articulated as “from X to Y by when”. To choose a WIG, you could ask:

  • Which area of performance would we want to improve most?
  • What are our greatest strengths to leverage?
  • What area of poor performance needs to be improved?

Each team should choose a WIG that feeds into the organisation’s WIG.

2. You must act on the lead measures.

Those things that predict the future achievement of the goal and can be influenced. Some actions have greater potential to than others to get you where you want to go — do these. Fill in the gaps: Putting energy [here] will improve results [here]. For example: a pre-flight checklist is a lead measure for a safe flight.

3. You must keep a compelling scoreboard.

People play differently when they’re keeping score. Without a scoreboard, it’s like “bowling through a curtain”. The scoreboard must be simple, visible, show both lead and lag measures and provide an instant answer to the question “are we winning?”. This includes “where are we now?” and “where should we be by now?”.

4. You must create a cadence of accountability.

Great teams operate with high levels of accountability where members make personal commitments and follow through. At a 20-minute weekly WIG meeting:

  1. Report on commitments and learnings from the past week,
  2. Review the scoreboard and
  3. Make new commitments for the week ahead (“what can I do this week to influence the lead measures?”).

You can read the first chapter and get a taste, or get the book and start achieving your wildly important goals.