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Execution and Innovation.....Doing Both Matter for Things That Matter

Posted by Thomas Edwards on March 6, 2020 12:45 PM EST
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As I mentioned in my blog about a month ago, I wanted to provide some insight from a very good book that I have just now finished reading called....

...."The Four Disciplines of Execution" (or "4DX")This book was recommended to me by Joe quite some time ago as he had read it a while back and was curious as to how this book would fit within the context of innovation.  I recall Joe telling me that he didn't get that connection, and was certain there was a connection since the book's foreword was written by non-other than Dr. Clayon Christensen.   "4DX" was written by a team of consultants who have built success around applying some of the principles of the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" into an operating system for getting day to day work done properly and implementing breakthrough projects at the same time.  The authors' names are Chris McChesney, Sean Covey (remember author Stephen Covey?) and Jim Huling.  

In order to do the book justice, I will be quoting from an excellent book summary I found which I think really does a good job of identifying the key points.  For interested innovation and execution fans, I highly recommend visiting the website where I found the summary.  You can read it in its entirety and even subscribe to a more detailed synopsis.  Without hesitation, I recommend reading the detailed summary and the book too.  Here's the link to the fuller summary from which I liberally quote:


Before I provide my summary of the above summary, I will explain why I think this book is so relevant to the effective pursuit of applied innovation.

For many years, many people have thought of innovation as a sort of magical thing.  That supposition assumes that all innovators are unusually gifted people and like inventors, or artists, these innovators, and their techniques are hard to copy and apply for the rest of us who are desperately seeking to find "orders of magnitude" improvements in our daily work and in our enterprises' endeavors.  So, reading the foreword by Dr. Christensen set me on the right track and mindset from the outset.

I think when you read my summary of the summary which follows you will understand why the methodology of "4DX" makes so much sense.  And perhaps more so when you think through the first discipline of "Focusing on Wildly Important Goals" or WIGS, for short).  It's very hard to argue with the premise that WIGS is often an application of an innovation or the pursuit of innovation and their breakthrough solutions to be applied.  And perhaps there may not be a better way to apply the "4DX" methodology than to do so in the implementation of socio-economic collective impact projects such as improving population health, driving more prosperity and better lives through collaboration and reducing the impact of substance abuse through community-wide ARTS projects (Addiction Recovery Treatment Services).

I will stop now and let the professional reviewers and the snippets below tell the story properly....:)

"In “The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving your Wildly Important Goals”, McChesney, Covey and Huling explain how to achieve effective execution using 4 key disciplines of execution (4DX). These 4 disciplines can help anyone—from frontline workers to senior executives—to become more engaged in their work and produce outstanding results. In this summary, we’ll outline the key concepts behind the 4DX."

"Execution typically fails due to a lack of clarity, commitment and accountability. But above all, it fails because we get so caught up in the whirlwind of urgent daily work that we’re distracted from our most vital goals."

The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX)

4DX is not merely a set of practices. It’s a set of timeless disciplines that jointly form an operating system that must be applied as a whole.

1. THE DISCIPLINE OF FOCUS: Focus on your Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)

"A WIG is a goal that’s so vital that all other goals won’t matter if it’s not achieved. This could be a major problem that’s adversely affecting your profits (e.g. escalating costs, project delays) or a success factor that could be multiplied for exponential results. This discipline is about focusing on 1-2 WIGs that will make all the difference to your organization".

2. THE DISCIPLINE OF LEVERAGE: Work on the Lead Measures


"All outcomes can be measured either as lead or lag measures. Lag Measures (e.g. weight loss) show your performance based on what happened in the past, while Lead Measures (e.g. diet and exercise) show the high-impact things that you must do now to reach your goal. This discipline is about deliberately focusing on the lead measures (or high-impact activities) that will drive your lag measures."


3. THE DISCIPLINE OF ENGAGEMENT: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

It’s not enough for people to understand what the lead measures are. For team members to perform at their best, they must be emotionally engaged. Everyone must know the score at all times, so they know if they’re winning or losing. This discipline is about motivating your team with a scoreboard tailored to the team members and your specific WIG(s).

4. THE DISCIPLINE OF ACCOUNTABILITY: Create a Rhythm of Accountability

It’s tough to execute a new strategy as it requires people to do something different while managing their daily whirlwinds. The first 3 disciplines help to bring focus, clarity and engagement, while this discipline ensures that people actually do what they should consistently to achieve the WIG. It’s about creating a regular, recurring cycle, where people account for past performance and plan for further improvements to the score.



As you roll out the 4DX operating system with your team, you’re likely to experience 5 stages of behavioral change and 3 key types of reactions.  At an organizational level, it gets much more complex and you need all leaders to be fully onboard to execute it across multiple teams in 6 key steps.


Implementing 4DX comes with various challenges, but the results are well worth it. You can also apply 4DX to your personal goals. 



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