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

A book review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:   The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

Synopsis of Content: 

The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a blueprint for how to effectively improve something through the establishment of a key goal, develop a system for measuring performance of the goal, and then following through with its execution. The authors advise focus on no more than three goals and if possible only one. They argue that too many goals dilute effort too much resulting in too little being achieved toward any one goal. To really effectively achieve a significant goal requires a high level of focus and that happens best with three or fewer such goals.

The approach is to develop a big goal, something vitally important. They call this a WIG which stands for “wildly important goal”. Once the goal is identified it is necessary to develop certain measurements to determine if the goal is being achieved.

The first measurement is the “lag measures”. This measurement tells you if you are achieving the actual goal. For example if the goal is lose 25 pounds then the lag measurement is losing 25 pounds. This is the ultimate measurement of achievement.

Next you must identify those actions that will most likely enable you to lose 25 pounds. As an example those actions may include restricting daily calorie intake to 1800 calories and increasing exercise to 5 miles of walking or running each day. These are called the “lead measures”. For this goal then the lead measures are calories consumed per day and miles walked or run per day.

The next step is to measure performance on the lead measures every day and track both the lead measures and the lag measure to determine performance and achievement of the goal. It is important to post these measurements on some form of graph or table where everyone involved in the goal can see how they are doing. Participants are held accountable for their contribution to the lead measures at a weekly WIG meeting where the posted data is reviewed and each participant’s contribution is reviewed.

This system was developed primarily for organizations and teams within organizations. However at the end of the book the authors discuss case studies to show how the same system can be used for personal goals.

Throughout the book case studies are presented showing how this method helped various companies and organizations to improve their performance, often in substantial ways. It builds cohesion and accountability in the team, or if done by an individual for that individual.

What I found useful about this book:

The focus on finding ways to measure the actual actions needed to achieve a goal is very helpful whether you are working with an individual goal or a team goal. The way the system fits together and accurately measures performance as well as accountability is an elegant and powerful concept. The real life examples show that it can really work in the real world.

Readability/Writing Quality: 

The book is well organized and well written. It provides all the information needed to understand the method and what makes it work.

Notes on Author:  

Chris McChesney works at FranklinCovey as a Global Practice Leader for design and development of the 4 Disciplines method.

Sean Covey is Executive Vice President at FranklinCovey and directs its international operations in 141 countries. He was involved in the original creation of the 4 Disciplines methodology.

Jim Huling is a consultant with FranklinCovey working with the 4 Disciplines. He has worked in corporate leadership in Fortune 500 companies and privately held companies.

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:  

  1. Identify the most important improvement you can make or the biggest problem you need to solve in your organization or your personal life. Create a Wildly Important Goal to address that improvement or problem and then use lead and lag measurements to track progress and motivate follow through.
  2. All organizations can measure the performance of their employees and their teams on a bell curve with high performers on the right side, poor performers on the left side, and the average performers in the middle. Use the 4 Disciplines to move that bell curve to the right – to make everyone more effective performers.
  3. Measurement of the attainment of the goal and the actions needed to get there are key to motivating people and achieving an important goal.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

Copyright holder: © 2012 by FranklinCovey Co.

Publisher: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Books2Wealth Book of the Month: December 2015

You can buy the book here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.