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1-Page Book Summary of The 4 Disciplines of Execution

How often have you come up with an amazing plan, showed it off, admired it, been sure that it’s the solution to all your problems, only to have it die a slow death over the next few months? This isn’t uncommon—strategy (your beautiful plan) is much easier and better-studied than execution (actually carrying out your plan).

The 4 Disciplines of Execution explains how to actually do the things in the plans. Execution requires behavioral change, which is one of the hardest things to generate, both in yourself, your team members, and your organization. The greatest enemy of execution and behavioral change is the whirlwind—the day-to-day activities necessary to keep an organization running. It’s very difficult to make changes when you’re stuck inside the storm and completely occupied with just trying to keep things running.

The authors have come up with a system called 4DX (4 disciplines of execution). This system makes it possible for organizations to achieve wildly important goals while fending off the whirlwind. It works for any kind of team (e.g. creative, military), in any type of structure (e.g., matrixed), and in any industry (e.g., manufacturing, government). It even works in personal or family settings. Additionally, in the process of achieving a goal, 4DX creates behavioral change that leads to a permanently higher level of performance.

This book is not about how to tame the whirlwind; it’s about how to get things done in spite of the whirlwind. You should give 4DX 20% of your time and energy. 80% should remain with the whirlwind. The whirlwind may be an enemy of execution, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important—you need these day-to-day operations to keep an organization running.

4DX contains the following four principles: focus, leverage, engagement, and accountability. These principles probably aren’t new to you—in fact, they’re natural laws. (They’ve been affecting you even if you weren’t aware of them until now.) However, the key of 4DX is to apply the principles in a very particular way.

Discipline 1: Focus

In Discipline 1, choose one to three goals to focus on. Call them wildly important goals (WIGs) to remind yourself and your organization that they’re top priority. Choosing so few goals may feel counterintuitive. Do it anyway.

Senior leaders choose the WIG for an organization. Then, each team comes up with supporting WIGs. There are four rules for choosing team WIGs:

  • Rule #1: Focus. No team will choose more than two WIGs.
  • Rule #2: Team WIGs must directly support the overall WIG.
  • Rule #3: Teams get to choose their own WIGs. Senior leaders can veto, but cannot make the final decision.
  • Rule #4: All WIGs must be stated in the format “from point A to point B by deadline.”

For example, consider an organization with an overall WIG of “Increase profit from $10 million to $15 million by June 1.” A sales team might come up with a single WIG: “Increase profit from our department from $2 million to $3 million by June 1.”

How do you choose good WIGs? WIGs must be challenging but also attainable. There are four steps to settling on a WIG:

  1. Brainstorm. Ask yourself what kind of change would have the most impact on your organization or team. Consider things that aren’t working, and things that, if they worked even a little better, would have a large impact. Involve peer leaders and your team in the brainstorming.
  2. Assess. Consider the list of team WIGs you brainstormed. Which ones will have the highest impact on the overall WIG?
  3. Test. Your WIG must support the overall WIG, be measurable, be driven by the team rather than the leader, and shouldn’t depend more than 20% on another team.
  4. State. Choose your WIG and write it in the format “from point A to point B by deadline.”

Discipline 2: Leverage

In Discipline 2, you learn how to get from point A to point B. Points A and B are lag measures—results that can’t be changed after they’ve been measured. For example, a lag measure is your body weight on a scale.

To create results, you’re going to need a different type of measure—a lead measure. Lead measures predict and influence lag measures, so when you apply disproportionate energy to lead measures, the lag measures move too. If your lag measure is your weight, the lead measures are how much you eat and exercise. If you want to change your weight, it’s more productive to change your diet and exercise than to weigh yourself multiple times, hoping your weight will have changed since the last time you stepped on a scale.

It may feel counterintuitive to spend a lot of time and energy on a measure that isn’t a result. Do it anyway.

For example, the above team had a WIG of “Increase profit from our department from $2 million to $3 million by June 1.” Their lead measures can be things that increase revenue or reduce costs, such as “each team member must pitch the product to three new clients a week.”

How do you choose good lead measures? There are four steps:

  1. Brainstorm. Ask yourself what kind of changes would highly affect the WIG. Consider things you’ve never done before, things you could improve, and things you’re doing badly that might hamper you. Look at successful companies’ measures for inspiration. Involve your team in the brainstorming.
  2. Assess. Consider the list of lead measures you brainstormed. Which ones will have the most effect on the team WIG?
  3. Test. Your lead measure must be predictive, maintainable, measurable, and impactful. It must have an effect on the team WIG, be driven by the team rather than the leader, and it must be influenceable—your team needs to have control over it, so it shouldn’t depend more than 20% on another team.
  4. State. The lead measure statements don’t have a strict format like a WIG, but they should still be specific, start with a simple verb, and be concise. They should be clear about expectations—does the lead measure need to be done daily or weekly? How often, how much, and how well? Are they concerned with team or individual performance?

Discipline 3: Engagement

In Discipline 3, engage your team by making 4DX into a game they can win. You already did some engagement work in the previous two disciplines by consulting your team members about the team WIG and lead measures. When people choose their own goals and feel ownership, they’re more engaged. They’re also more engaged when they enter a competition their team can win—humans have a natural urge to compete and love to win.

For example, recall the sales team with the WIG of “Increase profit from our department from $2 million to $3 million by June 1” and the lead measure of “each team member must pitch the product to three new clients a week.” Their scoreboard might have a visual that shows two trend lines, one that goes from $2 million to $3 million (the target), and one that shows their actual profit. They would have a separate visual for their lead measure. It might be a chart where each team member writes down how many pitches they completed that week.

How do you design a good scoreboard? This scoreboard must tell your team if they’re winning (if they’re on track to meet the WIG) and is a constant reminder of the game. There are four steps to creating a scoreboard:

  1. Format. Some options for format are trend line, gauge, bar chart, or andon chart. Your team can personalize the scoreboard however they like—this will engage them further.
  2. Test. The scoreboard design must be simple, visible, complete, and easy to read. It must show a target line—where the team is (current progress), and where they need to be (WIG and lead measure target).
  3. Create. Ideally, ask your team to physically build the board themselves. Materials don’t matter—they can choose to use posterboard or do a digital version, whatever they like as long as it meets the criteria in the test step.
  4. Update. The board must be updated at least weekly. Choose a scorekeeper (or more than one) and make sure everyone knows when and how often the board will be updated.

Discipline 4: Accountability

In Discipline 4, run a weekly accountability meeting called a WIG session. Because achieving the WIG is now a game, people are accountable to their teammates as well as the boss. When people know others are depending on them, they’re more motivated and engaged, they try harder, and performance becomes a matter of personal pride.

The WIG session takes place at least once a week, lasts less than 30 minutes, and has a very specific agenda: review the scoreboard, report on last week’s commitments (and celebrate them), and come up with new commitments. The whirlwind is not allowed anywhere near the WIG session. The regularity of sessions and mandatory attendance are key to this discipline—accountability requires consistency.

WIG session commitments must directly influence the WIG by influencing the lead measures (no whirlwind commitments). They must be focused, specific, impactful, and not take longer than a week to achieve. The person who makes the commitment must be able to do most of the work themselves.

Leaders make weekly commitments too. The most effective commitments for leaders are ones that “clear the path” and ones that help their team achieve their individual commitments and improve their execution. For example, if a team member requires a new piece of software, a leader could secure approval for the purchase.

Six Steps for Implementing 4DX Across an Entire Organization

There are six steps to implement 4DX across an entire organization:

  1. Choose the overall WIG. Use the steps in Discipline 1.
  2. Choose team WIGs and lead measures. Use the steps in Disciplines 1 and 2.
  3. Train leaders in 4DX. The authors suggest you do this, and the previous two steps, through training with their company, FranklinCovey. The training involves learning the disciplines, how to teach and communicate them, how to solicit feedback, and roleplay practice.
  4. Launch 4DX. Team leaders hold a two-hour launch meeting that explains what 4DX is, communicates and solicits feedback on the WIGs and lead measures, and explains scoreboard design. There’s also a practice or example WIG session.
  5. Guided execution. FranklinCovey, or an internal 4DX coach, helps everyone through the weekly practice of attending WIG sessions, making commitments, and scoring.
  6. Quarterly meetings. Every few months, leaders attend a leader version of a WIG session, in which they account for their team’s progress on 4DX and can be recognized for their success.

Ancillary Benefits

The 4DX process creates some beneficial side effects: increased engagement and permanent behavioral changes.

Increased Engagement

All four of the disciplines increase employee engagement. Disciplines 1 and 2 give team members the opportunity to help choose their goals and the methods for achieving them. When you choose something, you feel more ownership of it than if you had simply been assigned to do it. Discipline 3 turns the achievement of the WIG and lead measures into a game, which is inherently engaging. Discipline 4 shows team members that their...

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The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Strategy vs. Execution—Or What Vs. How

There are two parts to getting results, strategy and execution. Strategy covers what to do to achieve change (the plan) and execution covers how to actually do it.

Strategy is the easier of the two and traditional business education (such as MBAs) focuses on it. To learn strategy, you study a single organization in depth. You look at “photographs” (single moments in time) of the company or executive. Then you copy what’s working.

Execution is more like a movie. You have to study it over time, and you have to study many different companies. You look at why things happen. Execution, at its most powerful, involves behavioral change, and not just your own. Execution is hard because you have to change the behavior of other people. Sometimes this is the behavior of certain people in the organization, sometimes it’s everyone in the organization. And a grudging agreement to temporarily change won’t work—you need people’s commitment and engagement.

Types of Strategies

There are two main types of strategies, stroke-of-the-pen strategies and behavioral-change strategies:

  • Stroke-of-the-pen. These strategies are executed by an order or authorization. They use resources such as planning, money, and so on, and they are almost guaranteed to execute. They sometimes evolve into strategies that require behavioral change
    • For example, they are things like a major investment, adding new staff, or changing a product mix.
  • Behavioral change. These strategies are executed by getting people to do something different. The resources are people, and these strategies often fail to execute.
    • For example, they are things like getting a department to use a new software system, getting two teams to collaborate, or reducing costs.

A study from consulting firm Bain & Company found that about 65% of initiatives required major behavioral changes from front-line staff, and the managers often fail to consider or plan for this. You’re more likely to hear a manager complaining about the specific employees than how hard it is to get people to change their behavior. Specific employees aren’t the reason strategy fails to execute. The system is the reason, and as a leader, the system is your responsibility.

Why Execution Fails

There are many reasons you and your company fail to effectively execute your strategies, including “the whirlwind.”

The Whirlwind

The main reason execution fails is because of the whirlwind—day-to-day operations urgently required to keep the organization running. The whirlwind takes up so much energy and focus that people don’t have energy or time left over to do new things. Urgency (the whirlwind) will beat out importance (new goals) every time. This is why most strategic goals fizzle out rather than blow up.

You’ve probably seen the effects of the whirlwind on your staff. For example, have you ever been explaining a new goal to someone and found them not really listening? While you’re talking, they’re thinking about the day-to-day tasks the conversation is taking them away from, what they might call “their actual work.” A teacher buried under essays to grade and swamped by parent-teacher conferences doesn’t have time to think about long-term goals like improving test scores.

Other Factors

Besides the whirlwind, there are some other more goal-specific reasons execution fails:

  • People don’t know or understand the organization’s goal.
    • For example, in one of the authors’ initial surveys, they discovered that only 1/7 of employees could successfully name even one of their organization’s top goals. The other 6/7 named a goal that didn’t exist. The lower the person was in the company’s hierarchy, the worse their understanding of the goal.
  • Lack of passion.
    • For example, in the same study, the authors learned that only 51% of people were passionate about the goal.
  • Accountability.
    • For example, the study found that only 19% of people were held accountable for their work on the organization’s goals.
  • Lack of actionables.
    • For example, the study found that 87% of people didn’t know what they were actually supposed to be doing to achieve the goal.

There are more subtle reasons too, such as lack of trust, bad compensation, bad processes, and bad decision making.

4DX—A Path to Execution {#4dx—a-path-to-execution}

4DX stands for the 4 disciplines of execution. 4DX is an operational system containing the disciplines: focus, leverage, engagement, accountability. They are principles (not guidelines or practices) that help you not only achieve a particular strategy, but that create lasting behavioral change, therefore permanently amping up the performance of your team. 4DX has some ancillary benefits as well, mainly that your employees will become more engaged, and they can apply what they’ve learned from 4DX in the workplace to their personal lives.

The four disciplines aren’t new ideas or rocket science—they’re natural laws. Companies such as Weight Watchers have been successfully using similar methods for years. You’re probably already goal-setting, collecting data, creating scoreboards, and holding meetings. However, 4DX takes you beyond understanding principles to actually implementing them. 4DX prescribes a specific, particular way of applying the four disciplines that should earn you the kind of results you’ve never been able to achieve before.

The authors researched the disciplines, experienced trial and error, and have offered the following list of research to assure you that 4DX is well-tested and will work in any country or field:

  • Surveyed 13,000 people internationally
  • Surveyed 17 different industry groups
  • Internal assessments of 500 companies
  • Survey almost 300,000 leaders and team members
  • Worked with people in 1,500+ implementations

Remember that the disciplines are laws of nature. **It doesn’t matter...

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Defining Discipline 1: Focus

The key of this discipline is to focus on—and only on—the wildly important. Genetically, human beings work best when they do one thing at a time. Multitasking overloads our brains, and when our brains are overtaxed, they slow down. As you practice multitasking, you actually get worse at thinking and problem-solving. As a result, it’s physically impossible to be most effective when concentrating on too much at once.

You can see the harmful effects of multitasking in the workplace too. When you have too many goals, you get hit with the law of diminishing returns. If you have four to ten goals, you might achieve one or two. If you have more than ten, you won’t achieve any of them. Too many or unfocused goals also make the whirlwind worse. What might be five goals at the top of an organization cascades down to many smaller goals at the bottom of the hierarchy, creating too much to focus on. Also, conventional organizational goals often lack measurability, focus, and a deadline.

Therefore, when you want to create change, choose one, at max three, very important goals to work toward. Call them Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) to make it easy for you and staff to remember that they’re top priority. These goals should not come from the whirlwind, and this discipline doesn’t apply to the whirlwind. (The whirlwind is made up of the essential day-to-day activities that keep your organization running. If you ignored parts of it, your organization wouldn’t survive.)

Additionally, this discipline helps you more clearly communicate your strategy to your organization. Choosing a WIG forces you to translate strategy from ideas to a specific outcome. When there are only a few specific outcomes, it’s easy for your staff to differentiate what’s goal and what’s whirlwind.

Focus for Leaders

As a leader, however, you can’t simply focus on one sole thing. You can use different parts of your brain at the same time, just don’t overload them. Think of your brain like an air traffic controller. A controller must be aware of all the planes that are approaching, taxiing, or leaving, but only one of those planes is really important—the one that’s landing at this exact moment. Be aware of all your “planes” (tasks including the whirlwind), but only focus on the landing “plane” (your WIG).

Many leaders understand that focus is important, but still find this discipline hard to put into practice. There are both external and internal forces keeping you from focusing, and often the internal forces are more difficult to overcome. Here are the forces:

  • Your own nature. As a leader, you’re ambitious and creative, which drives you to do more. You see beyond what others see, and you’re always finding existing things to improve and new opportunities.
  • Quest to appear successful. If you try everything, something might work. And if it doesn’t, by taking on so much, you’ve demonstrated a ton of effort, so you look good. Choosing a single goal raises the stakes—if you fail, you don’t have anything to fall back on.
  • Difficulty of saying no. Saying no is counterintuitive for leaders, who are by nature people who are looking for opportunities. A further challenge is that opportunities don’t show up all at once. You can’t compare their strengths and weaknesses and choose the best one. When they show up alone, they all look good.
    • For example, Apple’s Steve Jobs was very good at saying no. He made a single phone type, the iPhone, instead of the 40 different models his competitors were making.
  • Other people’s goals and agendas (particularly those of people above you). You must meet your responsibilities to others as well as yourself. You don’t have any control over how many goals your boss gives you, but you do have control over which goal you choose for a WIG
  • Whirlwind. Remember that WIGs are separate from the whirlwind. If you try to turn everything in the whirlwind into a WIG, you’ll be overwhelmed. WIGs require changes in behavior, and no one can change that much at once. Budget 80% of your time and energy to maintaining or slowly improving the whirlwind. Use 20% for your WIGs.

Four Rules for Organizational Application

4DX can be used in any context, but the authors focus on team and organizational settings. Therefore, in much of the following, the authors refer to two types of WIGs: overall WIGs and team WIGs.

The overall WIG is the WIG for the entire organization, chosen by the senior leaders.

Team WIGs are the goals of specific teams. They move the organization closer to the overall WIG, but the focus or language of the team WIGs may be different from those of the overall WIG.

Once an organization has an overall WIG, there are four rules for applying Discipline 1 across the organization:

Rule #1: No team focuses on more than two WIGs.

Across an organization, there may be many WIGs, but within a team, there cannot be more than two.

Rule #2: The WIGs at lower levels of the organization must directly help achieve those at higher levels.

Imagine the WIG at the top of the organization as a war. WIGs at lower levels are battles. The only reason to fight a battle is to help win a war. Once you have an overall WIG, consider how to achieve it with the fewest number of team WIGs (rather than making a to-do list of all the things that must be done to achieve it). This simplifies the strategy.

For example, an Internet provider had a WIG of “Increase sales from $6 to $9 million by February 28.” An outside sales team committed to raising $1 million and the major-account division committed the remaining $2 million. The technology team committed no money but improved the company’s record for uninterrupted service, which was very important to customers and helped the other teams achieve their WIGs.

Rule #3: Senior leaders can veto but not choose the lower level WIGs.

This rule combines the best of top-down...

Shortform Exercise: Why Is Focus So Hard?

Most leaders know that focus is important but find it difficult to do.

What factors make it difficult for you to choose a focus? Consider internal factors such as your own nature or desire to look good, what others ask of you, and your whirlwind.

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The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Implementing Discipline 1: Focus

A WIG must challenge your team, but it must also be achievable. Don’t game your team by choosing something impossible while privately thinking if they manage 75% of it, you’ll be happy. Long-term, this will affect your ability to engage your team and produce results.

There are four steps to selecting WIGs:

Step 1: Brainstorm a List of Possible WIGs

To brainstorm, come up with ideas on your own and consult team members and peer leaders, if applicable.

Brainstorm on Your Own

Brainstorm a list of possible WIGs even if you think you already know what the WIG should be. Ask yourself, “If everything about my organization stayed the same, where would a change have the most impact?” (Don’t ask, “What’s most important?”—you’ll get distracted by the whirlwind and other people’s opinions.) Come up with as many ideas as you can. The more ideas you have to choose from, the better your final WIG will be.

To come up with ideas, look within and outside of the whirlwind, and consider your mission.

  • If you’re choosing a WIG from inside the whirlwind, your options are:
    • Something that’s very badly broken that absolutely must be fixed, for example, going over budget
    • Something in your value proposition that isn’t working, for example, unsatisfactory customer service
    • Something that’s already going well but would have a large effect even if it was only improved a little, for example, an increase from 80% to 90% satisfaction could generate a lot more revenue
  • If you’re choosing from outside the whirlwind, your WIGs will usually be about strategy. (This kind of WIG will be totally new to your team and will require an even bigger change in behavior.)
    • For example, you might want to launch a new product
  • If you’re choosing something to align with your mission, consider results beyond your organization
    • For example, a thrift-store chain got a new president. The old president had done a good job and the company was doing well financially and operationally, so the company looked at choosing a WIG to do with their mission, which was to help people with disabilities and people who are homeless become more self-reliant. They eventually decided that the WIG should be to help workers with disabilities find jobs outside their organization. The thrift-store company couldn’t hire every person with a disability, but they did have the capacity to train them in retail.
Brainstorm with Team Members

Including team members in the discussion of choosing a WIG increases their engagement with that WIG. They have different skill sets and knowledge bases than you, so they might come up with ideas you never could have. They’ll also be the people doing a lot of the work in the next three disciplines, so it’s important they be consulted.

In addition to the same things you would consider yourself, consult your teammates on the following:

  • To achieve the overall WIG, what area of team performance do you want to improve? (Assuming that all current performance stays the same)
  • In areas where the team is already succeeding, what one strength would you improve even more to contribute to the overall WIG?
  • In areas where the team is struggling, what one weakness most needs to be improved?

(If your team is really big, you can talk to a representative group.)

Brainstorm with Peer Leaders

Peer leaders are particularly important to consult when your organization has an overall WIG. These leaders may depend on you, or you on them. While brainstorming with peer leaders, in addition to the same things you’d consider alone, ask for ideas regarding:

  • If your team is part of an organization with many goals, figure out which goals are most important.
  • If your organization already has an overall WIG, come up with ideas that will directly contribute to it.
  • If the team is the whole organization, come up with ideas that will grow the organization or support the mission.

If your team is a support function (HR, finance, IT, and so on), wait to choose your team WIG until after the line functions finalize theirs. Then, you can use your WIG to help them achieve theirs. For example, if a sales team wants to move to a new model, HR can choose a WIG that involves helping people get the training they need.

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Brainstorming

Each implementation section, throughout the whole summary, will reference the experience of the production department of a publishing house.

Maria is the leader of the production department of a large publishing house. When the publishing house started implementing 4DX, the senior leaders came up with this overall WIG: “Decrease costs from $1 million to $800,000 by the end of the year.”

The production department (and all the other departments of the publishing house) brainstormed team WIGs that would support the overall WIG. Maria and her team came up with a list of ideas such as:

  • Reduce the need for outside help such as freelance designers and photographers
  • Reduce the number of at-press changes (once the printer has set up files, there’s a charge per changed page)
  • When purchasing stock images, avoid the more expensive rights-managed agencies

Step 2: Assess Impact

Once you have a list of possible WIGs, determine the ones that have the most impact on the overall WIG.

Some guidelines:

  • If the overall WIG is financial, then the team WIG should have something to do with money: revenue, profitability, cost savings, etc.
  • If the overall WIG is quality, then the team WIG could have something to do with productivity or customer satisfaction.
  • If the overall WIG is strategic, then the team WIG could address the mission, new opportunities, or how to reduce threats.

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Assessment

Maria and her team calculated the possible savings of all their ideas. **Maria now knew which WIG would...

Shortform Exercise: Choose a Team WIG

There are four steps to creating a team WIG.

Invent an overall WIG for your organization. (If you’re not clear on the overall goals of your organization (not uncommon), or you’re not having a brainwave, you can use this one, which should apply to most organizations: increase profit from point A to point B over the next year.)

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Defining Discipline 2: Leverage

Think of your WIG’s point A as a big heavy rock. No matter how hard your team pushes against it, it’s immovable. However, if your team applies a lever, the rock shifts. The team has to move the lever a lot to move the rock a little, but the rock does move. Discipline 2 is about finding the right lever to move the WIG value from point A to point B.

Point A and point B values are also called lag measures. Lag measures are results. They tell you if you’ve reached your WIG, so they’re very important. However, as the name implies, the actions that produced these results have already happened, so there’s nothing you can do to change them. Some examples of lag measures are revenue, profit, customer satisfaction, and body weight on a scale. (The whirlwind of daily tasks is full of lag measures.)

The lever in the rock example above is a lead measure. Lead measures quantify the actions that have the most impact on the WIG. Lead measures don’t tell you if you’ve achieved the WIG; instead they forecast if you will achieve the WIG. They’re predictive of the lag measure and, because the actions that drive them are ongoing, they’re influenceable. For example, if your lag measure is your body weight on a scale, as above, your lead measures are what and how much you eat, and how often you exercise.

Because lead measures directly affect lag measures, the more you move your lead measure, the more your lag measures will move.

Most people know that the lead measures are important. The key to discipline 2 is measuring lead measures. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, everyone knows diet and exercise are factors. However, not everyone actually measures and tracks calorie intake or time spent exercising.

There are two critical characteristics of lead measures:

  • Predictive. A change in the lead measure must create a change in the lag measure.
    • For example, consider a lag measure that’s how often your car breaks down. A predictive lead measure would be how often you have it serviced. A non-predictive lead measure would be what color you paint it.
  • Influenceable. Specifically, directly influenceable; your team must be able to influence this measure without dependence on another team or outside force.
    • For example, consider the lag measure that’s how many crops you grow. An influenceable lead measure would be how often the crops are fertilized. A non-influenceable measure would be the amount of rainfall—there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Why Leaders Fail to Focus on Lead Measures

Though fixating on lag measures doesn’t get results (because the lag measures are the results), leaders focus on them for two reasons:

  • It’s easier to get data on lag measures than lead ones. There are almost always already systems in place to measure lag measures; sometimes you have to come up with a new system to get lead. It takes discipline to keep getting data.
    • For example, it’s easy to step on a scale and weigh yourself (lag measure), but it’s a lot more work to keep track of how many calories you eat or how many minutes you spend exercising (both lead measures)
  • Lag measures are the results you have to achieve and the results you’re held accountable for. It’s not surprising that people focus on the numbers that measure success and failure.

Even when leaders shift their focus away from lag measures, they may still struggle with lead measures. Why? It’s rarely a matter of ignorance or effort—most leaders have some idea of what factors will influence their results. Leaders struggle with lead measures because:

  • They aren’t employing Discipline 1. Even if they know what the lead measures are, they’re not focusing on them because they’re dealing with too many goals, or they’re stuck in the whirlwind.
  • They know what the lead measures are but they don’t know if anyone’s actually doing them because they’re not tracking.
    • For example, suggestive selling is hardly a new idea in retail, but salespeople have to actually do it, regularly, for it to work.

Implementing lead measures is the hardest part of 4DX because:

  • They’re counterintuitive. Lag measures are the obvious place to focus, because the results are what matter.
  • They’re hard to measure. Tracking behaviors (especially new ones that have never been done before) is harder than tracking results. On the bright side, it’s so much work to get data on lead measures that if you were tempted to disobey Discipline 1, you’ll self-enforce once you realize the time commitment required for measuring even a single WIG’s lead measures.
  • They come with a false sense of simplicity. They require focus on a single behavior that might not seem relevant, especially to those outside the team.

Types of Lead Measures

There are two types of lead measures, both perfectly acceptable to use in Discipline 2.

  • Small outcomes are lead measures that create multiple new behaviors. The team must achieve a result, but everyone can use whatever method they want, and the team is accountable for the result.
    • For example, achieve average customer satisfaction scores of 80% each week.
  • Leveraged behaviors are lead measures that force everyone on the team to do the same beneficial behavior. The team doesn’t have to achieve a result, but must do specific behaviors throughout the week, and the team is accountable for doing the behavior.
    • For example, each team member must help at least 50 customers per week.

Example: Water-Bottling Plant

Here’s an example of one company’s journey to find influenceable, predictive lead measures:

A water-bottling plant came up with the following WIG: “Increase bottling from 45 million gallons to 50 million gallons by the end of the year.”

At first, the company struggled to understand the difference between lead and lag measures. Their early suggestions for lead measures were...

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Implementing Discipline 2: Leverage

Finding lead measures can be challenging. If you’re trying to do something you’ve never tried before, you have to do new things. How do you know what these new things should be? Like coming up with a WIG, there’s a four-step process:

Step 1: Brainstorm a List of Possible Lead Measures

Like step 1 of WIG brainstorming, come up with as many ideas as possible. The most effective lead measures may not be the ones that first occur to you. Make sure you focus on ideas that will help achieve the WIG. You’re not looking for a catch-all list of things it would be good to do. Coming up with lead measures requires a bit of that Discipline 1 focus.

While brainstorming, consider:

  • What have we never done before that will help achieve the WIG?
  • What are we good at that we can use to achieve the WIG?
  • What are we bad at that might get in the way of us achieving the WIG?
  • What are the activities we already do that are most important to achieve the WIG? Keep in mind the 80/20 rule—80% of your results will come from the top 20% of your actions. Choose your lead measures from these top activities.
  • What did other people or companies with similar WIGs do? What were their lead measures?

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Brainstorming

Maria and her team brainstormed many possible lead measures, including:

  • Create a pre-press checklist to catch the most common errors
  • Find printers that don’t charge for at-press changes
  • Ask the author to do a final review of the book files
  • Run preflight software on book files before sending to press
  • Ask another staff member to look over files before submission
  • Create a consistent file-naming convention so no one accidentally submits the wrong file

Step 2: Assess Impact

Determine which lead measures will have the most impact on the team WIG. Probably all the ideas you come up with are good ideas, and you and team members feel like you should be doing all of them, but don’t fall into this trap—pick just a couple.

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Assessment

Maria and her team narrowed their ideas down to these top three:

  • Create a pres-press checklist. Many of the at-press changes were the same mistakes in different books.
  • Run preflight software. Software would catch errors not easily visible to the eye.
  • Create a consistent file-naming convention. When book files didn’t have version numbers, it was difficult to tell which file was the final version.

Step 3: Test the Top Lead Measure Candidates

Test each potential lead measure. If the answers to all of the following questions are yes, the lead measure passes the test. Four of the questions are the same as in the WIG test, noted with an asterisk (*).

  • Is it predictive? Will the lead measure influence the lag measure?
  • *Can your team achieve the WIG without significant help from another team? (Is it influenceable?)
  • Is it maintainable? The goal of a lead measure is to make new behaviors a habit. Therefore, ongoing processes are a better choice than one-offs.
    • Ongoing processes: Attend all meetings of the volunteer executive.
    • One-off: Sign up to be a member of a volunteer executive.
  • *Are the results driven by the team rather than the leader? The team needs to engage with the measure or they won’t be interested.
    • Weak lead measure: A leader more frequently audits.
    • Strong lead measure: A team responds to audit findings.
  • *Is there a way to measure it? You have to be able to measure the lead measures.
  • Is the lead measure worthy of the effort it will take to carry out and measure? The lead measure must create enough impact to be worth the trouble, and shouldn’t have any negative side effects
    • For example, a fast-food chain hired inspectors to visit restaurants. All the workers thought the inspectors were spies and morale dropped.

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Testing

The production department’s lead measures passed all the tests.They were predictive, influenceable, maintainable, team-driven, measurable, and didn’t create any negative side effects. While testing, the department realized that it would be easier to remember to run preflight software if it was part of the checklist, so they combined those two measures.

Step 4: Write the Lead Measures in their Final Form

When writing your lead measures in their final form, consider the following, and be specific. The considerations that are the same as for the WIG are noted with an asterisk (*).

Individual vs. team?

  • If you track individual performance, you create a high level of accountability, but it’s harder to get perfect results because everyone has to meet the same standard. This requires detailed scorekeeping.
    • For example, each person must sign up two people for the customer loyalty program per day
  • If you track team performance, you allow differences in performance between team members, but it’s easier to achieve results because team members can make up for each other’s weaknesses (not necessarily a good thing—low performers can hide).
    • For example, the whole team must collectively sign up ten people for the customer loyalty program per day

Daily or weekly? (Weekly is the minimum.)

  • If you track daily, you create the highest level of accountability because each day must be the same
    • For example, sign up two customers per day per team member
  • If you track weekly, this allows for variability between days but you’ll still get the same numbers at the end of the week as you would have by tracking daily.
    • For example, sign up 14 people per week per team member

How much and how often? Come up with numerical values for your lead measures. Pick numbers that are challenging but not impossible. When making this decision, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose higher numbers if it’s a...

Shortform Exercise: Find Lead Measures

There are four steps to finding lead measures.

Recall the team WIG you came up with in the previous exercise. Brainstorm a list of possible lead measures that will affect the WIG’s lag measures (X and Y). Remember, lead measures must be both predictable and influenceable.

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The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Defining Discipline 3: Engagement

Discipline 3 engages your team by making the achievement of the WIG into a game they can win. Humans have a natural urge to compete, and people behave differently when they see an opportunity to win—they become highly motivated and engaged, and this drives a high level of performance.

The opposite is also true—it’s human nature not to try as hard as you can if no one’s keeping score. For example, consider this anecdote about an important high school football game. Hurricane Katrina had knocked down the scoreboard, but the field was fine, so the game went ahead. But because the fans couldn’t see the score, no one knew what was going on in the game, and no one cared about the game.

The authors claim that an opportunity to win is one of the most powerful ways to engage people, more powerful than money, benefits, conditions, and workplace relationships. People desperately want the opportunity to achieve.

People perform best when they are personally winning. They don’t necessarily care whether the organization or their boss is winning, they care if the team they’re on is winning.

Winning, in the context of Discipline 3, is achieving the WIG. The score is lead and lag measures.

Your team must always know the score or else they don’t know what to do to win. If they don’t know, they’re not trying to win, they’re just trying to not lose (survive the whirlwind of their daily activities). A conceptual understanding of lead and lag measures is completely different from a team that knows their score.

The leader must set up the game so it’s winnable—the lead measures must influence the lag measures.


The score is measured on a literal scoreboard. There are two types of scoreboards, and as you’ll see, the one you want to use is a player’s scoreboard:

Leader’s (“coach”) scoreboard

A leader’s scoreboard is made up of complex spreadsheets or visuals that display leader-level data with an overwhelming amount of data. This scoreboard is so complicated that only the leader can read it or draw any conclusions from it. Leaders create this kind of scoreboard instinctively and you probably already have some version of this that contains data such as historical trends, detailed analysis, and so on.

The leader updates these kinds of scoreboards.

Employees’ (“players”) scoreboard

An employees’ scoreboard is made up of simple, visual graphs that show only the important information—where you are and where do you need to be, i.e., are you winning or losing? Leaders have to consciously choose to create (or ideally get their employees to create) this kind of scoreboard

The players update the scoreboard and it forces them to act.

A player’s scoreboard has these requirements:

  • It’s simple. The card should only contain minimal information. Don’t include any extra information such as reports, year-over-year comparisons, and so on. A simple scoreboard is easier to update, and the easier it is to keep score, the less likely it is that people will put it off when the whirlwind strikes.
    • For example, consider a scoreboard at any professional sports game. It contains only a few pieces of information such as the score and time left in the game.
  • It’s visible. The scoreboard has to compete with the whirlwind for attention, so it needs to require no extra work to access. Put it where people will see it often, or if you have remote team members, do a digital version. A public scoreboard makes people more accountable, because everyone can see who’s contributing most. If you want to be most motivating, post it where other teams can see it.
    • For example, if employees on day and night shifts can see each shift’s scores, they might compete to beat each others’ production numbers.
  • It’s complete. Typically, scoreboards have a visual for the WIG and each lead measure. The scoreboard must display the target and where the team is currently at. On the WIG’s visual, the target is the point B value. On the lead measures’ visuals, the target is usually a static standard of performance that must be reached and maintained. If you don’t have data on your target, estimate. (For example, if your WIG is to improve something you’ve never measured before, or it's something qualitative.) It is critical to have a target line, even if it’s not based on hard data, because if you don’t have a target, you can’t tell if you’re winning. In the interest of completeness, you can also include:
    • Legends and simple labels so everyone understands what the scoreboard shows.
    • If your scoreboard is anything other than a trend line, it can be helpful to do the math and show the numerical difference between the target and current numbers.
    • You can also do ramp-up targets for lead measures rather than a static target, if you prefer.
  • It’s quickly readable. Anyone looking at the scoreboard should be able to tell within five seconds if they’re winning or losing. The scorecard must show where they are and where they should be at an exact moment in time. You can use colors such as red and green to make things even more obvious.

The scoreboard must be regularly updated or people will lose interest and the whirlwind will overtake the game.

The scoreboard itself isn’t what engages people, the game does. For example, no one’s going to comment on how beautiful the scoreboard was at the Olympic gold medal hockey game, they’re going to comment on the game. The scoreboard is a just a reminder—a constant reminder—of the ongoing game.

Example: Production Plant

Here’s an example of the effects of a scoreboard:

A Canadian plant hadn’t hit its target production...

Shortform Exercise: What Engages You?

People are most engaged when they feel like they’re playing a game they can win.

Imagine the last time you did something without keeping track of the score. For example, you might have been playing catch with your daughter, reading a book, or making dinner. How motivated and engaged were you?

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Implementing Discipline 3: Engagement

There are three steps to implementing Discipline 3:

Step 1: Choose a Scoreboard Format

There are several options for format:

  • Trend line. Trend lines are most effective for lag measures. You can see where you’re supposed to be and where you are.
  • Common gauges (speedometer, thermometer, and so on). This is most effective for time measures (for example, process speed).
  • Bar chart. This is most effective for comparing performance of individuals or teams.
  • Andon chart. An andon chart shows symbols that represent the status of measures, such as a smiley face when something is on target, or a sad face when it's not. This type of chart is most useful for displaying lead measures.

The goal is to get team members invested in the scoreboard, so let them personalize it by adding details such as photos or other elements that represent the team. For example, engineers might set up flashing lights on their scoreboard. Personalization helps a team take ownership and makes winning about personal pride.

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Formatting

Maria and her team used a trend line to show the difference between their goal costs and their current costs:


They added a chart for lead measure 1 (renaming book files) that tracked weekly individual performance:

Lead Measure: Each team member renames files for two books per week.

Team Member Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Craig 2 2 4
Emiko 2 2 4
Harriet 1 2 2
May 2 1 2
Raoul 1 3 3
Fred 2 2 3

They added a bar graph for lead measure 2 (completing the checklist):


Step 2: Test the Scoreboard Against the Criteria

Test the scoreboard. If the answers to all of the following questions are yes, the scoreboard passes. Is it:

  • Simple?
  • Visible?
  • Complete?
  • Quick to read?

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Testing

Maria and her team evaluated the board against the criteria. The board is simple—it has only three parts. The design is visible—the graphs are visually clear and well-labeled. The board is complete—it shows the WIG, lag, and lead measures, and it’s obvious at a glance if the team is winning or losing.

Step 3: Physically Create the Scoreboard

Ideally, get the team to create the board themselves. The more they work on it, the more engaged they will be. However, if they don’t have discretionary time, you as the leader might need to do the actual creation.

It doesn’t matter what you make the scoreboard from as long as it meets all the criteria in step 2. Poster Board, whiteboard, digital, and so on are all fine.

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Creation

Maria’s team made their scoreboard using book design software and printed it poster-size. They decorated it with images from their favorite books.

Step 4: Update the Scoreboard

The board must be updated at least weekly. Choose someone (or multiple people) to be the scorekeeper and make sure they understand it’s an important responsibility. Make sure everyone on the team knows when and how often updates will be posted.


Shortform Exercise: Make a Scoreboard

There are four steps to creating a player’s scoreboard.

Recall the WIG and lead measures you came up with in the previous two exercises. Think about what scoreboard format would be most appropriate. Remember, some of the options are trend lines, bar charts, gauges, and andon charts.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Defining Discipline 4: Accountability

Disciplines 1-3 set up execution, but Discipline 4 is where it actually happens. If you were to stop 4DX after Discipline 3, scoring would happen, but only for a short while. In time, the scoreboard would become a to-do list that no one’s doing. Or, everyone would come up with their own ideas about how to do things, scattering effort in all directions. Without accountability, the game/goal will be overtaken by the whirlwind of day-to-day operations.

In 4DX, “accountability” doesn’t mean an annual performance review or getting called out for failing—there’s no negative connotation. Here, accountability isn’t top-down or organizational; it’s personal. You’re accountable to your team members (not just your boss), but most importantly, accountability becomes a matter of personal pride. Since you helped choose the WIG and lead measures, you can make commitments you have the power to carry out. Discipline 4 reconnects everyone, in a personal way, to the WIG, in spite of the distractions of the whirlwind.

The key to Discipline 4 is that the accountability is precise and regularly scheduled—a cadence.

The WIG Session

The cadence of accountability is primarily maintained by a meeting called a WIG session. This session takes place at least once a week and lasts less than 30 minutes. In it, the leader holds people to commitments they make that will increase the lead measures.

(Initially, the meetings may take longer than half an hour, but they’ll go faster as you get used to the agenda. If non-WIG-related things come in the meeting, schedule a different meeting to sort them out.)

There are several benefits to a WIG session:

  • Refocus the team on the WIG in spite of the whirlwind.
  • Give team members a chance to learn from each other. When one team member comes up with something that works, the others can copy. Team members also learn what isn’t working, and know to avoid it.
  • Help team members. If someone hits a snag, the team helps clear it.
  • Adapt to things that were impossible to see back in annual planning.
  • Celebrate successes and maintain engagement.

Session Requirements

There are two requirements for WIG sessions:

Requirement #1: They must be consistently scheduled.

The session must be at the same day and same time every week. Never miss it—your team will follow your example and treat it with as much importance as you do. If you can’t personally attend (for example, you’re on vacation), you should:

  • Choose someone else to lead the meeting, such as a supervisor or an experienced member of the team. It’s also fine to rotate the meeting leader weekly.
  • Train the substitute. Make sure they know that the WIG session is very important, and that they know the agenda.
  • Debrief. When you return, meet with the substitute leader and recap the meeting. It’s also important to thank the substitute for taking on such an important responsibility.

Demand attendance. Even if the people in your organization work shifts, are geographically distributed, or have massive whirlwinds, everyone must attend a weekly WIG session to maintain accountability. To encourage attendance:

  • Remind people that a session isn’t a large time commitment (20-30 min for a session), or do a shorter 5-7 min version called a huddle. Huddles still take place weekly and cover the same things as the full meeting, but the team as whole makes one commitment for the next week, instead of everyone making their own.
  • Hold the WIG session right before or after an existing meeting so most people are already assembled.
  • If there’s no time when everyone can attend a WIG session or huddle, leaders can hold more than one, or meet with people individually, in person or by phone.
Requirement #2: They must be whirlwind-free.

It doesn’t matter how important a whirlwind issue might be, never discuss whirlwind problems in a WIG meeting. Have a separate meeting later. Maintaining the whirlwind is never a good enough consolation prize for failing to meet a WIG’s weekly commitments.

Session Agenda

A WIG session has a set agenda, and only these three things are covered:

Report on last week’s commitments.

Everyone outlines their WIG commitments from the previous week and the outcome:

  • Example #1: You might have committed to call three customers. You would tell your team that you did make those calls and what you learned.
  • Example #2: You might have gone to a meeting you committed to attending but not gotten the information you were looking for. You would explain the problem.
Review scoreboard. (Update the scoreboard before the session.)

Look at the scoreboard and assess the lag and lead measures. Are the lead measures moving the lag ones? Discuss what the team’s learned about what’s working and what’s not, and how to adjust. Meaningfully celebrate both the team and specific individuals when there are successes. This increases engagement, as everyone likes being publicly praised.

  • Example #1: While looking at the scoreboard, you might discuss how a lead measure is improving but you’re not seeing the effect in the lag measure yet.
  • Example #2: To celebrate an individual or team, you might create awards such as highest performer of the week or best WIG session, or get pizza.
Plan for next week.

Everyone makes new commitments for the next week. Some of these commitments might be to help team members with problems that came up in the account part of the meeting (“clear the path”). For example, you might commit to doing research on an issue and coming back next week with at least three ideas.

Each commitment must:

  • Be specific. Avoid language like “focus on” or “work on.” If your commitment isn’t specific, the whirlwind will eat it.
  • Directly influence the lead measure, and so directly contribute to the WIG.

**Team members come up with the commitments, not the...

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Implementing Discipline 4: Accountability

This chapter illustrates the implementation of Discipline 4 by taking us through the agenda of an example WIG session.

Agenda Item 1: Review the Scoreboard

The leader starts the WIG session by reviewing the scoreboard. This includes:

  • Stating whether the team is above or below the target for the team WIG.
  • Stating whether the team is above or below the targets on the lead measures.
  • Congratulating the team.
  • Congratulating the top performers.
  • Emphasizing the need to consistently meet and maintain the targets, even if everything’s already on track

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Scoreboard Review

Maria might say something like, “Congratulations to Craig and Emiko, who both exceeded this week’s lead measures by renaming four book’s files this week.”

Agenda Items 2 & 3—Leaders {#agenda-items-2-&-3—leaders}

The leader completes both steps 2 and 3 before the team members.

Agenda Item 2: Account for Last Week’s Commitments

The leader reports on her own commitments, in first person, by:

  • Reminding everyone of her commitments.
  • Stating whether she completed, exceeded, or failed to meet her target.
  • Sharing anything she learned that might help her team members.

Agenda Item 3: New Commitments

Immediately after the leader has reported on her commitments (don’t switch people yet), she states her commitments for next week.

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Leader

Maria might say something like, “Last week I committed to getting approval to purchase preflight software. I got the approval. Next week, I commit to running two 20-minute training sessions on the software.”

Agenda Items 2 & 3—Team Members {#agenda-items-2-&-3—team-members}

Agenda Item 2: Account for Last Week’s Commitments

The leader then gives each of her team members a chance to report on their commitments. They cover the same material:

  • Reminding everyone of her commitments.
  • Stating whether she completed, exceeded, or failed to meet her target.
  • Sharing anything she learned that might help her team members.

If someone hasn’t fulfilled a commitment, the leader addresses it. She follows these steps:

  • Demonstrates respect for both the team members and the whirlwind.
  • Reminds the team member that commitments have to be fulfilled, no matter what else is going on, because their actions affect the whole team.
  • Asks the team member to complete both the missed commitment and whatever they choose for next week’s commitment in the next week. This gives the team member the opportunity to recover, and Maria an opportunity to demonstrate her commitment to 4DX.

Agenda Item 3: New Commitments

Team members state what their commitments will be for the next week. Anyone who missed last week’s commitment must do both that commitment and new commitments before the next WIG session.

Shortform Example: Book Production Department: Team Members

Emiko might say something like, “Last week I committed to having a 15-minute phone conversation with the color specialist at our printer in Malaysia. I learned some photoshop tips that will help us improve the brightness of our images, so we won’t have to make changes to dull-looking photos at press. This week, I’ll have a 15-minute conversation with the greyscale expert at our printer in India.”

How to Choose Commitments

As the leader, you have two roles at the commitment-choosing stage—you need to choose your own commitments and guide your team members in choosing theirs.

To come up with commitments, brainstorm one or two specific things that affect the lead measures. Don’t ask yourself what the most important thing you can do that week is, because you’ll come up with something in the whirlwind.

The commitments don’t have to address anything urgent. They don’t have to be new ideas—they might be things you’re well aware you should be doing; you only haven’t been able to do them because of the whirlwind. Here are some things to consider when deciding on commitments:

  • Focus. Everyone should choose only one to two commitments.
  • Importance. Commitments should be high impact and make a big difference
  • Personal. Commitments are things you will do, not things you will commit other people to do. When working with others, commit only to the parts you will be doing yourself.
  • Timeliness. Commitments must be short enough to be completed within the following week. If a multiweek commitment is necessary, commit only to the parts that you can do in the next week. The week timeline is very important—it creates urgency that can’t be eaten by the whirlwind. Additionally, the commitment must also produce results within a short period of time. If you’re not going to see the impact of the commitment on the lag measure in the near future, it doesn’t fit the weekly schedule.
    • For example, don’t accept “I’m making progress” as a result in a WIG session.
  • Effect on the WIG. The commitments must directly move the lead and lag measures. No whirlwind commitments!
  • Specificity. It’s hard to be accountable for something vague. Commitments should contain what you’ll do, when you’ll do it, and what the outcome should be.

As the leader, you have an additional source for commitment ideas—the “system.” The most effective commitments for leaders tend to be things that improve the team’s execution (versus commitments that directly influence the lead measure). Leaders should always consider commitments around:

  • Training. You’ll always have a team member who needs training or to be reengaged. When...

Shortform Exercise: Choose a WIG Session Commitment

Leaders have two options for WIG commitments. They can commit to actions that will move the lead measures, or actions that will improve the team’s execution.

Think of a problem at work. What can you do to solve the problem by yourself?

Shortform Exercise: Run a WIG Session

The WIG session has a very specific agenda. Imagine you’re leading a WIG session. Recall your WIG, lead measures, and scoreboard from the previous exercises.

The first step of a WIG session is to review the scoreboard. Picture your scoreboard—how will you summarize it for your team? (Consider if your lead measures are moving your lag measures, and if the team or individuals are meeting or exceeding the performance standard on the lag measures.) How will you celebrate top performance?

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Implementing 4DX Across an Entire Organization

(Shortform note: The authors are part of an organization called FranklinCovey, which provides 4DX training. In this section, when they write “leader” or “coach,” they mean a person who’s gone through their training program and been certified.)

It’s more challenging to roll out 4DX on a large scale than it is to get it working with individual teams. There are three things to keep in mind:

  • 4DX isn’t a one-off event, it’s a long-term process with six steps.
  • Start with a pilot that includes a maximum of 20 teams. These teams must be able to contribute to the overall WIG (vs.isolated leaders). As the pilot teams succeed using 4DX, other teams will get interested.
  • An internal leader, not an outside consultant from FranklinCovey, must implement 4DX. This is important because:
    • Leaders who know they’ll have to teach something learn it more completely.
    • A teacher naturally becomes an advocate for the subject.
    • To advocate 4DX, leaders must lead by example.
    • An internal teacher has more credibility than an external consultant.

Six-Step Process

There is a six-step process for implementing 4DX that works with 10+ teams at once. Steps 1-3 involve training with FranklinCovey and take six to eight weeks. Steps 4-6 take an additional three to four months.

Step 1: Find the Overall WIG

Leaders use the 4-step process for determining an overall WIG. The senior leader gets to make the final decision.

Step 2: Find Possible Team WIGs and Lead Measures

Each leader chooses a team WIG using the 4-step process. Here, senior leaders guide their leaders in choosing something relevant to the overall WIG, and veto ideas if necessary. Each leader chooses team lead measures.

This step is not complete until the team members have been consulted on the team WIG and lead measures.

Step 3: Certification of Leaders

FranklinCovey teachers leaders to launch 4DX. They roleplay practice WIG sessions and the launch meeting, and the leaders learn:

  • Scoreboard design.
  • How to teach their teams a basic understanding of 4DX.
  • How to communicate the WIGs and lead measures.
  • How to get feedback and make adjustments.

Once this step is completed, leaders are certified to launch.

Step 4: Launch

Leaders hold a launch meeting and kick off 4DX with their teams. The launch meeting should last two hours. 45 minutes are for presenting 4DX and the rest of the time is used to discuss everything else including:

  • The overall WIG, which is set in stone.
  • The team WIGs and lead measures, which are open to feedback.
  • The scoreboard design and scorekeeper assignment, which are open to feedback.
  • A practice WIG session. (In addition, the team may also attend another more experienced team’s WIG session.)

Step 5: Guided Execution

The weekly process of making WIG sessions, making commitments, and scoring begins.

FranklinCovey and 4DX coaches help leaders:

  • Stick to the schedule and process.
  • Deal with any resistance.
  • Prepare for step 6.

Step 6: Leader Meetings Every Quarter

Every few months, leaders attend a meeting with their senior leaders and report on 4DX. (A quarter is enough time to see both the lead and lag measures moving.) Make sure the most senior leaders are present to increase the sense of urgency and the pressure to produce results. For example, the governor of Georgia attended the meeting for five state government agencies.

This may be the first time certain leaders meet with senior leaders, and the first time they get to talk about their ideas and be celebrated. These meetings make leaders accountable and also give them a chance for recognition.

4DX Coaches

Naming an internal 4DX coach can help make organizational implementation successful. (The authors write that every highly successful implementation they’ve seen has had a good coach.) The coach helps when there are problems with the 4DX process and guides leaders who need help with any of the disciplines. The coach also acts preemptively, to make sure the teams stick to the process and don’t get sucked into the whirlwind.

Every organization should have two coaches. It’s not a full-time job, but this helps avoid schedule conflicts. Make sure when you get a second coach, you keep the first one on so they can be consistent with each other and maintain continuity.

Coaches benefit the organization by:

  • Always being available. An internal coach can provide immediate support and knowledge.
  • Providing self-sufficiency. An internal coach means an organization doesn't have to pull in outside help.
  • Training new leaders. The coach can quickly onboard newly hired or promoted leaders.

When selecting your coaches, look for:

  • Competence. A coach should be knowledgeable about business, a good communicator, and good at workplace relations. They’re more effective when they influence rather than formally order change.
  • Interest. The person should be passionate about 4DX.


If you encounter any of the following three situations, fix them before trying to implement 4DX:

  • Non-critical WIGs. If you don’t have an important—wildly important—goal, you won’t get the same commitment from your organization members, and they won’t get on board with 4DX as a process
  • Uncommitted senior leader (the person who’s in charge of 4DX, not necessarily the CEO). The leader of 4DX must lead by example or else no one else will embrace the process.
  • Leaders at the wrong level. If you train leaders that are too high, they WIG won’t make it all the way to the front lines. If you train leaders that are too low, they may not know how to lead or create good WIGs. AIm for the lowest full-time leader above the front lines.
    • For example, a store manager would be the correct level. A plant manager would...

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary Ancillary Benefits of 4DX

In addition to helping you execute a wildly important goal, 4DX also increases engagement and creates permanent behavioral change in your team.


All four of the disciplines increase engagement and morale, not only Discipline 3:

Discipline 1 improves morale because once there’s a WIG, even though people still have to deal with the whirlwind—the daily responsibilities necessary for running an organization—and the WIG’s challenges, they have clarity and a finish line.

Discipline 2 improves engagement because looking only at lag measures can be a frustrating end goal with no roadmap. Even if employees understand the WIG and think it’s important, if they don't understand their own contribution, two things keep them from engaging: they don’t know what to do or they don’t think they’re capable. However, lead measures are concrete, doable, and measurable.

Discipline 4 helps overcome Patrick Lencioni’s three major reasons for disengagement:

  • Namelessness. When people feel like they’re not individually important, they disengage. In a WIG session, every single person speaks. No one is anonymous.
  • Lack of relevance. When people feel that their work doesn’t contribute to anything, they disengage. In a WIG session, every person assesses how keeping their commitments moves the lead and lag measures—everyone’s individual contribution is obvious
  • Lack of quantification. When people can’t measure their helpfulness, they disengage. In a WIG session, one of the agenda items is a review of the scoreboard.

(Shortform note: To learn more about how to keep your team engaged, read our summaries of Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Ideal Team Player.)

Behavioral Changes

There are five stages of this behavioral change:

Stage 1: All aboard

With the help of your team, complete the following to-dos:

  • Choose the WIG.
  • Choose the lead measures.
  • Create a scoreboard.
  • Ask everyone to reserve a time for the weekly WIG session.

Shortform Example: Tamar leads a team of sailboat riggers. Her team’s WIG is to reduce the number of dropped items by 10% by the end May. Her team’s lead measure is that each team member must make sure 100% of their tools are tied to their harness before climbing aloft. Everyone agrees to meet Monday mornings at 7 a.m.

Stage 2: Go time

Announce the start of 4DX with a meeting or huddle. As the leader, you have to be very involved at this stage and have some specific to-dos:

  • Remember that the launch is hard. It’ll take focus and energy, especially from the leader.
  • Keep following the 4DX processes, even if initially, things are rough.
  • Assess how everyone is reacting to the implementation and manage resistance. Some people will embrace 4DX more willingly than others and there are three categories:
    • Models—these are your most engaged, highest performers. They immediately get on board with 4DX.
    • Potentials—these people have the ability to become models, but aren’t there yet. They might lack focus, knowledge, or ability to get things done without outside pressure.
    • Resisters—these people try not participate in 4DX, or think 4DX is extra, unnecessary work that won’t have any effect. To manage resisters, the first step is to figure out why they’re resisting. It may because they don’t feel listened to (in which case, hear their concerns), or because they don’t like change or new ideas, are independent, or see 4DX as extra bureaucracy. To get them on board, make 4DX about the team—they are part of a team that’s larger than themselves as an individual, and the team needs them. They’ll also be more on board once they see results.

For example, Tamar’s models were doing the 4DX processes, but she also had potentials who struggled with the change, and resisters who actively disliked it.

Stage 3: It’s working

Team members get on board with the 4DX process and change their behavior. As people start to see results from 4DX, they’ll become less resistant and more enthusiastic about the process, and they’ll become accountable.

It will take time to get to this stage, and you’ll spend a while plateauing here. To make sure you progress further, here are some to-dos:

  • At first, don’t worry about seeing results, just focus on achieving your lead measures.
  • In the WIG sessions, strictly follow the agenda—make commitments and be accountable for them.
  • Use the scoreboard.
  • Adjust things if you need to.
  • Give the early adopters extra training and mentoring.
  • Be direct and honest with the resisters and help them if needed.

For example, after a while, Tamar’s team figured out the new routine and dropped objects decreased. As Tamar’s team saw that they were improving the lead measure, they became more excited about the process. The resisters were less resistant.

Stage 4: It’s working even better

The team starts actively contributing to improving 4DX and brainstorming performance improvements. They’ve seen results and now they’re more engaged.

To take advantage of this stage, there are some to-dos for the leader specifically:

  • Be open to creative ideas for improving the lead measures (though not all of them may be appropriate).
  • Celebrate successes.
  • Encourage everyone to help each other.
  • Note when the potential’s performance starts to get close to the models’.

For example, Tamar’s team followed the 4DX disciplines for eight weeks and their percentage of dropped items decreased, but not quickly enough to meet the WIG. Tamar was out of ideas, but when she brought up the problem in the WIG meeting, her team members had ideas, such as using particular knots for particular types of tools.

Stage 5: Second nature

At this point, your team should...

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary FAQs, Tips and Traps

The following frequently asked questions address the 4DX process as a whole. The questions are sorted into thematic categories.

Success and Failure

We tried 4DX for a year and didn’t get results—why? {#we-tried-4dx-for-a-year-and-didn’t-get-results—why}

A WIG is a strategic bet—it’s not a guarantee. Sometimes you won’t achieve a particular WIG. That’s not a failure of the 4DX method. Likely, the failure had something to do with an outside force, such as your competition making a better strategic bet. For example, an insurance company chose a WIG about a new policy for a new market. They worked very hard to move their lead measures, but the lag measures never moved because a competitor had come up with a more economical product and delivered it electronically.

We’re going to reach our WIG before our time is up—what should we do? {#we’re-going-to-reach-our-wig-before-our-time-is-up—what-should-we-do}

Don’t change the WIG—your team will lose their engagement. They’ll feel like the finish line is always moving and it’s impossible to reach. Do, however, keep seeking higher performance.

There are three scenarios that could create an exceeded WIG:

WIG was initially set too low

In this case:

  • Congratulate the team.
  • Take responsibility for setting the WIG too low.
  • If possible, set a new WIG at a higher level.
WIG was set properly but the team performed outstandingly

In this case:

  • Congratulate the team.
  • Declare the WIG achieved.
  • Set a new WIG for the remaining period of time.
WIG was set properly and you got a windfall

In this case:

  • Declare the WIG achieved.
  • Move on to a new WIG immediately, otherwise you’re shortcuting the adoption of 4DX.

When should you change a lead measure?

Don’t change a lead measure too quickly. Remember that the 4DX process contains a plateau at the adoption stage. If you’re seeing the lag measure become static, the lead measure might not be a dud; you may simply have reached a plateau. Before changing anything, assess:

  • Is the lead measure affecting the lag one?
  • Is the lag measure only moving a little? In this case, you don’t necessarily need to change the measure. Instead up the performance standard. The initial standard won’t create results forever. To increase performance:
    • Increase the lead measure numbers. For example, if your lead measure is to greet a certain number of customers a day, increase the number
    • Increase the quality of the lead measure activity. For example, when your team members greet customers, challenge them to do it well. You can work on this by creating a script, practicing during and meeting, or asking the strongest members of the team to coach the others
    • Increase the scope of the lead measure. If a lead measure is now a habit, tweak it to include something related. This can increase results a lot and is easier to implement than a brand-new lead measure. For example, instead of just greeting customers well, escort them to the product they want.
  • Is your scoreboard accurate?
  • Has the team been achieving the lead measure for at least twelve weeks in a row? (This is the minimum time to form a habit.)
  • Will the team keep performing at the same level if you drop the lead measure?

My lead measure is moving but my lag measure isn’t—why? {#my-lead-measure-is-moving-but-my-lag-measure-isn’t—why}

There are three possible reasons:

  • Time. It takes a while for the lead measure to move the lag measure.
  • Inaccurate scoreboard. If the team isn’t accurately recording their performance on the lead measure, the lead measure may appear to be moving when it actually isn’t. (This is a particular danger if compensation is tied to lead measures.)
  • Lead measure isn’t predictive. Consider this reason last—most people jump to this conclusion.

If you’ve carefully considered the above three reasons and the lead measure really isn’t moving the lag one, reflect on your assumptions. Some organizations have beliefs that had never been tested until now. It could also be that external conditions have changed a lot and lead measure is no longer relevant.

Fitting 4DX into Existing Systems

How do I align compensation for 4DX?

It depends on your organization, but the most important thing is to reward the right people, not the people exhibiting the right behaviors.

If your existing compensation model already rewards performance against objectives, then it makes sense to align compensation to achieving the WIG. This will also have the benefit emphasizing that 4DX is an important behavioral standard.

If compensation isn’t aligned that way, it’s still a perfectly fine idea to align compensation to achieving WIGs.

Be careful about typing compensation to lead measures—this could result in an inaccurate scoreboard.

How does 4DX fit into...

The 4 Disciplines of Execution Summary 4DX in a Personal Setting

4DX is an operating system that gets results and creates permanent behavior change. This doesn’t only apply to the workplace—you can use it for personal and family goals as well.

It can be hard to get things done in your personal life because they don’t have inherent urgency. For example, caring for your health or strengthening your marriage aren’t as urgent as bringing in a paycheck.

80% of the US health budget is devoted to five behavioral issues: smoking, drinking, overeating, stress and insufficient exercise. Everyone knows these five things are bad for you. But even after experiencing heart attacks, many people don’t change their behavior. They know they should, and they probably want to, but they can’t. Their problem is execution.

The process is similar to how you would approach a workplace goal:

Discipline 1: Focus

Choose your WIG. It might be harder to define a point B for certain personal goals. For example, a WIG a grandfather chose a WIG of letting his grandchildren know he loves them. His lag “measure” was if the grandkids ran up and hugged him.

Extended Example: Losing Weight

Ellen, a kickboxer, wanted to lose weight so she could fight in a lighter weight class. She decided on a WIG of “Decrease weight from 125 pounds to 112 pounds by November 1.” (Shortform example)

Discipline 2: Leverage

Decide on your lead measures. Only choose as many as you need to—don’t add unnecessary complexity.

Extended Example: Losing Weight

Ellen knew that the two options for lead measures were diet and exercise. She already did a lot of exercise, so she decided to focus on diet. Her lead measure was “Don’t eat more than 1800 calories per day.”

Discipline 3: Engagement

Create a scoreboard that shows the WIG, lead and lag measures, is visible, and is quick to read.

Extended Example: Losing Weight

Ellen used an app to track her progress. She configured the app to show her current weight, her goal weight, number of calories eaten so far for per day, and max calories for the day. She set the app to send her notifications so the scoreboard would remain visible.

Ellen’s gym got into the game as well. Some of her training partners downloaded the app too, or shared their low-calorie snacks.

Discipline 4: Accountability

In a personal setting, you don’t have a team and boss to report to, so choose a friend or family member to keep you accountable.

Extended Example: Losing Weight

Ellen chose to be accountable...