The 4 Disciplines of Execution – Applying 4DX as a Leader of Leaders

This article is the second part of “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” series of posts. In the previous one we focused on presenting the 4 disciplines: focus on the wildly important, act on the lead measures, keep a compelling scorecard and create a cadence of accountability. This one covers how to apply these disciplines by being a leader of leaders.

Choosing where to focus

Identifying your breakthrough result: assess each candidate’s WIG on the two axes of “Impact of Failure” and “At Risk of Failure (Without Significant Change)”.

Three leadership mindsets are essential if you want to create alignment and engagement across an entire leadership team:

  1. Transparency mindset
    • While full transparency is not always organizationally possible, the mindset of transparency is, and there are few things that develop high trust more rapidly than authentic transparency.
    • Presenting the draft of the Primary WIG and Key Battle WIGs is a great example. Most leaders can’t resist the temptation to present their draft WIGs and then advocate for them as the “right answer”. They do this by emphasizing how “critical these WIGs are to our success” or how these WIGs represent “the only effective option for moving forward.” While you must communicate the logic of how you got to these decisions, it is also important to outline the other options that were considered and rejected, and any lingering concerns or questions you still have.
  2. Understanding mindset
    • The key to influence is first to be influenced. An understanding mindset means that the leaders of leader truly seek to understand the concerns and ideas of the leaders of frontline teams before making a final decision on the Primary WIG and the Key Battle WIGs.
    • The greatest need of the human soul is to be understood. In the end, it’s far more important to the leaders of frontline teams to feel understood than it is for their ideas to be adopted.
  3. Involvement mindset
    • Most conscientious leaders of leaders understand the importance of involvement. What is less understood is when and how to create that involvement. The following is a simple diagram for the level of involvement leaders of frontline teams have in WIG selection.

📌Five steps to finalize WIGs at all levels:

Step 1: Ensure understanding of the Primary WIG and Key Battle WIGs. Understanding must precede action if you want results.
Step 2: Respond to clarifying questions
Step 3: Be open to feedback
Step 4: Make a final decision. In this step, the leaders of leaders meet, without the leaders of frontline teams, to create the final WIGs. IF for any reason the leaders of leaders cannot reach agreement, then the most senior leader must step in and make the final decision.
Step 5: Create Team WIGs

When leaders define clear ownership and invest in others, they have sown the seeds of success and earned the right to hold people accountable.

The greatest impact of 4DX is not simply the ability to produce breakthrough results. It’s the ability to sustain (and even improve) those results over a significant period of time. This characteristic is rooted in building habits of execution, practices that become so ingrained that teams are no longer conscious of them as a requirement for performance. Instilling these habits is the most important outcome for leaders of leaders.

It’s a dangerous mindset to accept WIG achievement as the sole indicator that you’ve created a culture of execution. As a leader of leaders, you need a more definitive measurement. To help crystallize this focus, we wanted a single indicator that measures not only WIG results but also the habits of execution that drive them – a measure we hope will be the focus for leaders of leaders as you pursue achieving your Primary WIG. The higher this metric, the greater your results and the greater your ability to sustain (or improve them). Over time, we found that aggregating the four most observable elements of 4DX gave us such a metric. This metric is called the Execution Performance Score, or XPS.

Understanding XPS

It’s important to separate the definition of XPS from how it’s used by leaders of leaders. To begin, let’s examine the definition. There are four components of XPS:

  1. Establish a cadence
    • this component indicates how well the team has established a cadence of meeting weekly to focus on the scoreboard
  2. Fulfilling high-impact commitments
    • this component indicates how well the team has consistently made commitments and followed through
  3. Optimizing lead-measures performance
    • this component indicates how consistently the lead measures are being performed
  4. Achieving lag-measure (WIG) results
    • this component indicates how effectively the first three components are enabling your team to achieve its WIG

Recognizing high performance

At the heart of every team’s performance, there are two fundamental forces at work: accountability and engagement.

Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.

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