Four Disciplines of Execution

Retrieved from Strategist.IO

As a way to create more opportunities for students to learn about what they are likely to encounter on job sites upon entering the workforce, the Career Readiness department has created a Wildly Important Goal (WIG) of establishing a collection of virtual job sites students and teachers across the district can access electronically by January 2020. You can learn more about this goal by reading my Innovation Proposal. Creating this library of virtual simulations is a goal we are striving to achieve amidst the whirlwind of our daily duties. We will employ the Four Disciplines of Execution model to provide clarity to our priorities as we strive to reach this goal.


The Four Disciplines of Execution–4DX–is a system for managing and mitigating surprises and obstacles that arise with any significant change initiative. We have utilized the 4DX tool, created by Chris McChesmen, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, as a roadmap for launching and sustaining the goals of my district’s Career Readiness department.

4dx pictochart

Stages of Change

What follows are the authors’ observations of the stages groups within organizations pass through when undergoing a major change effort.

Stage 1–Getting Clear

No, not like the Scientologists in Hollywood. This stage demands that everyone on the team trying to execute the WIG be perfectly clear about what the the Four Disciplines of Execution look like as it pertains to the team’s goal.

The WIG (Discipline 1) is the Wildly Important Goal. It is a goal that will make all the difference between the organization’s success or failure. Because of the law of diminishing returns, it is crucial that teams only identify and work to achieve 1 to 2 WIGs at a time.

When working toward a Wildly Important Goal, the team will have a lag measure that will reflect the status of achieving the WIG. Team members must have the discipline and restraint to Act on Lead Measures (Discipline 2) so that they do not get bogged down in the enormity of the overarching goal. These lead measures influence and are predictive of the WIG’s success.

We know that engagement changes behavior. When team members can see that they are moving the proverbial ball (in this game metaphor), they report more happiness and job satisfaction. A way to promote engagement is to Create a Compelling Scoreboard (Discipline 3). This scoreboard should be easy to access and interpret, show both lead and lag measures, and tell us if we are winning or losing at the “game.” This scoreboard shows at a glance how many virtual simulations have been created at each CTE campus:


Finally, we will Create a Cadence of Accountability (Discipline 4) in pursuit of our WIG. When we each have others who are aware of and dependent on our individual work efforts, it ramps up accountability, and in turn, that accountability increases the likelihood of successful goal completion. We will foster accountability by holding regularly-scheduled meetings in which we report on commitments, review the scoreboard and make new commitments.

Stage 2–Launch

The operative word within this stage is focus. The team must be focused ignoring (or de-emphasizing) the whirlwind while full attention is given to the lead measures that will ultimately shepherd the team to successful goal attainment. As we work toward the goal of establishing a collection of virtual job sites, we must trust the process of chipping away at the identified lead measures and resist the temptation to focus only on the lag measure. These lead measures include:

  • Conducting collaborative meetings among CTE instructors and Campus Instructional Technologists on the topic of creating work site simulations
  • Make business contacts and identify procedures for filming on location.

Focused baby steps.

Stage 3–Adoption

The new method for bringing about significant change is beginning to take root. During this Adoption stage, team members are either embracing or resisting the new disciplines. It is up to the leader to keep the ship sailing in the right direction encouraging the models, by giving potentials added support and addressing issues with resisters. It is at this stage I expect to observe which CTE instructors and Campus Instructional Technologists are meeting to overcome the logistical and technical challenges this WIG presents. We are checking that scoreboard regularly.

Stage 4–Optimization

Now we’re cooking with gas. We are acknowledging and celebrating the minor successes we are experiencing, which are leading us to our WIG. Team members are accountable to the team as a whole, which is driving more success. And, as an added benefit, creating more enthusiasm and satisfaction with the work of the department as a whole.

Stage 5–Habits

At this stage, team members have internalized the 4DX process. It is no longer a method they must struggle with to accomplish a goal; it has become ingrained, a working habit. In order to maintain this high level functioning, we will celebrate having achieved the WIG, and move quickly on to the next Wildly Important Goal. We emphasize that devotion to high performance on the lead measures is what got us to this point.

4DX and the Influencer Model

If you are going to hang a shelf, you need a couple different tools to complete the task. You will probably want to have a level on hand to ensure your shelf is, well, level, lest all your bric-a-brac slide off. You’ll also want a screw driver to drive in the screws of your shelf’s support brackets.

Similarly, when trying to implement significant change within your organization, it’s good to have a couple different tools in your tool box to address different aspects of change. One of the tools needed would assist with managing the behavior of change in your organization for you goals to be successful. This tool, the Influencer Model, addresses motivation and ability at the personal, social and structural levels. A second tool is one that helps to manage the system of change. It looks at four disciplines of executing change effectively, and the five stages the people attempting to bring about the change are likely to encounter.

One model is not better than the other, rather, they are both extremely useful in addressing the different aspects of the change process. Therefore, in order to implement change successfully in an organization, both models should be used in tandem.


Chesney, C., Covey, S. & Huling, J.  (2012)  The 4 disciplines of execution.  New York, NY:  Franklin Covey Co.

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxsfield, D., McMillan, R. & Switzler, A.  (2013).  Influencer:  The new science of leading change(2nd ed.).   Provo, UT:  VitalSmarts, LLC.


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