Updated: Feb 12
But what about the whirlwind? That all-encompassing term used to describe the important and urgent day to day functions of your business?
Put plainly, the 4 disciplines of execution or 4DX framework, is a concept of how to master this whirlwind of daily operations that often consumes all of your energy and attention, while diverting focus away from high level goals like increasing profitability, business development, and strategic growth.
1 – FOCUSING ON THE WILDLY IMPORTANT:
Have we lost you yet? The overall strategic aim of your business can be referred to as a Wildly Important Goal or W.I.G. The idea is to select 1 or 2 goals that you feel are extremely important to you and the growth of your business, instead of spreading your focus across multiple facets. Sometimes less is more and can help you kick goals by addressing them one at a time.
The whirlwind prevents you from trying to improve everything at once because when all is said and done, there are only so many hours in the day. The whirlwind will always be there, it’s just part and parcel of running a business – the key isn’t to attempt to cut down on daily operations, but to utilise the time not spent running the business more fruitfully.
It may seem counterintuitive but stop trying to make improvements in every area of your business. Period. Pick 1 or 2 items, and throw some time, money, and resources at them. It’s better to focus on a single goal and achieve it, then leave many goals half-finished or incomplete.
This W.I.G has to be something that people on every level of your organisational chart can work towards or directly affect. Think of it like fighting a war – you’re the general, and your troops and commanders need to be fighting the same battle in order to achieve victory.
Try to split your time, and allocate 80% towards maintaining the whirlwind, and 20% towards your chosen W.I.G. The research shows that having fewer goals greatly increases the chances of their success.
2 – ACTING ON LEAD MEASURES:
So, lead measures are indicators of performance that are influenceable and may predict future success. Whereas lag measures are indicators of past performance, essentially facts and figures that describe how success was or wasn’t achieved. There is a subtle difference.
A lag measure will tell you if you’ve achieved a goal, while a lead measure tells you how likely you are to achieve a goal.
Here’s an example: say you’re losing weight. You’ve lost 2 pounds this week, which is the lag indicator. The lead indicator here would be how many hours of exercise a week you completed, and how much you limited your dietary intake of caloric energy. Nothing will change the fact that you lost 2 pounds, but by going to the gym more often the following week or by limiting the portion size of your meals, you can make a predictable change for the future – losing more weight the following week.
One leading indicator would be customer satisfaction levels regarding a product or service, as a happy customer is more likely to use your company again or to recommend and endorse your company to others. The lag indicator here would be revenue made, as it describes something that has already happened – last year’s revenue doesn’t predict this year’s revenue.
The 4DX framework emphasises the benefits of tracking the lead measures, the actions and behaviours that will drive success in the future. By placing less emphasis on the sales revenue during last year for instance, and focusing instead on customer satisfaction and how to improve the overall experience, you’re effectively dialling in on something that is directly influenceable and will result in predictive increased success.
3 – KEEP A COMPELLING SCOREBOARD:
The results are in – people perform better when there’s a score being recorded. Human nature is more often than not competitive, and as the old saying goes: “Competition breeds character, which is the backbone of success. Winners are made, not born.”
It’s a phenomenon you can see for yourself. Observe kids playing a friendly board game, and their level of commitment to their team and its success. Then compare it to a more serious game, like soccer or football, and watch how different the team dynamic is. Suddenly there’s encouragement for failure, there’s acknowledgement and congratulations for success, and a universal drive held by every single kid on that team towards the primary goal – winning the match.
The aim isn’t to breed discontent amongst your staff as that will negatively affect your business. Keep a scoreboard, but the scoreboard itself has to be designed by your team. Having the team pick their out their contribution parameters in addition to what constitutes a ‘point’, maximises their engagement – as their input has been taken on board and directly affected the score and how it’s recorded.
To keep the drive to succeed high in the team, try to strip away as many complex systems of key performance indicators that you can in an attempt to make the scoreboard simplistic. Keep it somewhere visible. Your people need to be able to tell whether they’re winning or losing at a glance and take ownership of how they’re going to change things up if things aren’t going all that great.
4 – CREATE A CADENCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY:
These changes can’t just be a passing fad, as the team will soon lose interest. By creating a culture of accountability, you’re giving goals value by placing importance on whether they’re being met.
Setting up a 20-minute meeting each week is a must. Discuss progress made based on the previous week’s commitment, update the scoreboard as a group, and set new commitments for the following week.
This is arguably the most important Discipline of Execution, and the routine of review, accountability, revision, and change is a rhythm that you want to maintain in your business. At the end of these meetings, you want the group, the individuals, and yourself, to all walk away with actions to be completed before the next meeting.
Your peers will judge each other and quickly determine who isn’t pulling their weight. Conversely, those not pulling their weight will feel self-conscious and singled out in the group environment – so there is a motivation there to action all items and be good at your job in front of the team.
Actions need to be straightforward and achievable, so that there are no opportunities for longwinded excuses for them not to be completed by the following meeting. The organisation as a whole has to have a no-nonsense approach and have a culture that promotes accepting responsibility for personal commitment levels.
BEWARE THE WHIRLWIND:
So, it all sounds easy and fantastic on paper, but what happens in the real world?
There are a few things to watch out for. The whirlwind is a trap and can take up 100% of your time and leave you with no room to implement the various 4DX principles. Remember, the 4DX framework isn’t designed to run people’s lives, but it does require the full commitment of every person in the business to function. Remember, its an 80-20 split – if you don’t have the time, make the time.
Ensure the W.I.G goals you choose actually matter. Avoid areas that relate to the whirlwind, like wanting to do less paperwork or shortening or lengthening the workday. If every other area of operations remained at its current performance, the W.I.G goal would be the area where change would have the greatest, positive impact across all levels of the business – from frontline workers, to middle management, and all the way up to board level. Think increasing revenue by 15% in the next financial year or expanding your business into a new location or marketplace.
It’s important to understand that the whirlwind of day to day activities in your business will never go away – it’s an important and necessary pain in the rear end. Every business, at any level, will have a whirlwind to contend with.
By employing the 4 Disciplines of Execution, you’re not trying to affect the whirlwind, but the other parts of your business that may not be getting the love and attention they deserve.
Oddly enough, by implementing the 4 measures we’ve discussed, you will in all likelihood, be able to manage the whirlwind much better and even reduce the time you dedicate to it every day. It’s a welcome side effect to shifting your focus and running your team of employees in a more productive manner.
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