The 4 Disciplines of Execution – Applying 4DX as a Leader of a Frontline Team

This article closes the “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” series. The first one focused on presenting the 4 disciplines of execution, the second one was about how to apply the disciplines when you are a leader of leaders and the third one is about applying 4DX as a Leader of a Frontline Team.

The five stages of change

  1. Getting clear
    • it is inherently difficult to change human behavior amid a raging whirlwind. Success starts by getting crystal clarity on the WIG and the 4DX process. Remember your key actions in implementing 4DX:
      • be a model of focus on the Wildly Important Goals(s)
      • identify high-leverage lead measures
      • create a players’ scoreboard
      • schedule WIG Sessions at least weekly and hold them
  2. Launch
    • The launch phase of 4DX is not guaranteed to go smoothly. You will have your Models (those who get on board), your Not Yets (those who struggle at first), and your Nevers (those who don’t want to get on board).
  3. Adoption
    • These are the keys to the successful adoption of 4DX:
      • focus first on adherence to the process, then on results
      • make commitments and hold one another accountable in weekly WIG Sessions
      • track results each week on a visible scoreboard
      • make adjustments as needed
      • invest in the Not Yets through additional training and mentoring
      • respond straightforwardly to issues with Nevers, and clear the path for them if needed
  4. Optimization
    • encourage and recognize abundant creative ideas for moving the lead measures, even if some work better than others
    • recognize excellent follow-through, and celebrate successes
    • encourage team members to clear the path for one another, and celebrate this when it happens
    • recognize when the Not Yets start performing like the Models
  5. Habits
    • getting there isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight. It takes focus and discipline over time to implement 4DX and to make it stick. The pattern to expect usually looks like this: initially, results improve quickly, but then you’ll notice a plateau period as the team works to adopt the new mindset. Once team members become habituated to 4DX, it starts to pay real dividends.

Applying Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important

Focusing on a single breakthrough goal is the foundational principle of 4CX. Without it, your team will get lost in the whirlwind.

Step 1. Consider the possibilities

Begin by brainstorming possible WIGs. Although you might feel you already know what the WIG should be, you might end this process with entirely different WIGs. Your Team WIG should always align to an outcome that drives the company’s strategy forward.

Top-down or Bottom-up?
Should WIGs come from the leader or from the team?

Top-down: a leader who imposes WIGs without input from the team might have problems getting team ownership. If they drive accountability mostly through their authority, they probably won’t develop a high-performance team and will pay a price of low retention and limited creativity and innovation.

Top-down and bottom-up: Ideally, both the leader and the team participate in defining the WIGs. Only the leader can clarify what matters most. The leader is ultimately responsible for the WIG but should actively engage team members in the process. To reach the goal and transform the team, team members must be able to provide active input in defining the WIG.

Discovery Questions:

  • “Which one area of our team’s performance would represent our greatest contribution to the Primary WIG of the organization?” This question is more useful than “What’s the most important thing we can do?”
  • “What are the greatest strengths of the team that can be leveraged to ensure the Primary WIG is achieved?” This question will generate ideas in areas where your team is already succeeding, but where they can also take their performance to an even higher level.
  • “What are the areas where the team’s poor performance most needs to be improved to ensure the Primary WIG is achieved?” This question will generate ideas around performance gaps that, if not improved, represent a threat to achieving the Primary WIG.

Step 2. Rank by impact

When you’re satisfied with your list of candidate Team WIGs, you’re ready to identify the one that promises the greatest potential impact on the Primary WIG.

Step 3. Test top ideas

Once you’ve identified a few Team WIG candidates, test them against four specific criteria for your team’s final choice:

  1. Is the Team WIG aligned to the overall WIG?
  2. Is it measurable?
  3. Who owns the results – our team or some other team?
  4. Who owns the game – the leader or the team?

Step 4. Define the WIG

Once you’ve tested your ideas and selected a final Team WIG, make it as clear and measurable as possible. Define the Team WIG according to the following rules:

  • Begin with a verb
  • Define the lag measure in terms of From X to Y by When
  • Keep it simple
  • Focus on what, not how

The resulting WIG should look like this:

  • Decrease routing error rate from 11 to 4 percent by July 31
  • Raise annual inventory-turn rate from 8 to 10 by fiscal year-end.
  • Increase our average ROI from 12 to 30 percent within three years.

The deliverable for Discipline 1 is a Team WIG with From X to Y by When (lag measure)

WIG Builder

  1. Brainstorm ideas for the WIG
  2. Brainstorm lag measures for each idea (From X to Y by When)
  3. Rank in order of importance to the organization or to the overall WIG
  4. Test your ideas against the checklist on the following page
  5. Write your final WIG(s)

Applying Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures

Great teams invest their best efforts in those few activities that have the most impact on the Team WIG: the lead measures.
Often lead measures simply close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Just as a simple lever can move a big rock, a good lead measure provides powerful leverage.

Two types of lead measures

  1. Small outcomes
    • are lead measures that focus the team on achieving a weekly result but give each member of the team latitude to choose their own method for achieving it
  2. Leveraged behaviors
    • are lead measures that track the specific behaviors you want the team to perform throughout the week. They enable the entire team to adopt new behaviors at the same level of consistency and quality, as well as provide a clear measurement of how well they are performed. With a leveraged-behavior lead measure, the team is accountable for performing the behavior rather than producing the result.

Both types of lead measures are equally valid applications of Discipline 2 and are powerful drivers of results.

Here are the steps for arriving at a high-leverage lead measure.

  • Step 1: Consider the possibilities
    • What could we do that we’ve never done before that might make all the difference to the Team WIG?
    • What strengths of this team can we use as leverage on the Team WIG? Where are our “pockets of excellence”? What do our best performers do differently?
    • What weaknesses might keep us from achieving the Team WIG? What could we do more consistently?
  • Step 2: Rank by impact
    • Additionally, narrowing the focus to a few lead measures permits stronger leverage. As we often say “A lever must move a lot to move the rock a little.” In other words, the team must press hard on the lead measure to move the lag measure. Too many lead measures and you dissipate that pressure.
  • Step 3: Test top ideas
    • Once you’ve identified a few high-leverage lead-measures ideas, test them against the six criteria:
      • is it predictive?
      • is it influenceable?
      • is it an ongoing process or a “one-and-done”?
      • is it a leader’s game or a team game?
      • can it be measured?
      • is it worth measuring?
    • Although the one-and-done ideas can make a temporary difference – possibly a big one – only the team’s behavioral habits can drive permanent improvement.
  • Step 4: Define the lead measures – answer these questions as you put the lead measures in final form
    • are we tracking team or individual performance?
    • are we tracking the lead measures daily or weekly?
    • how much/often/how consistently are we supposed to perform? (quantitative standard)
    • how well are we supposed to perform? (qualitative standard)

đź“Ź Lead Measure Builder

  1. Insert the Wildly Important Goal and lag measure in the top box
  2. Brainstorm ideas for lead measures
  3. Brainstorm methods for measuring those ideas
  4. Rank in order of impact on the WIG
  5. Test your ideas against the checklist on the following page
  6. Write your final lead measures

Applying Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

Discipline 3 is the discipline of engagement. Even though you’ve defined a clear and effective game in Disciplines 1 and 2, the team won’t play at their best unless they are emotionally engaged – and this happens when they can tell if they are winning or losing.

Three principles:

  1. People play differently when they are keeping score
  2. A coach’s scoreboard is not a player’s scoreboard
  3. The purpose of a players’ scoreboard is to motivate the players to win

Creating a physical scoreboard

Step 1. Choose a theme

Choose a theme for your scoreboard that displays clearly and instantly the measures you are tracking.

Trend Lines

By far the most useful scoreboards for displaying lag measures, trend lines easily communicate From X to Y by When


Like an automobile speedometer, this scoreboard shows the status of the measures instantly. It’s ideal for time measures (cycle time, process speed, time to market, retrieval times, etc). Consider other common gauges such as thermometers, pressure meters, rulers, or scales.


An andon chart consists of colored signals or lights that show a process is on track(green), in danger of going off track(yellow), or off track(red). This kind of scoreboard is useful for showing the status of lead measures.

Include both actual results and target results. The scoreboard must answer not only Where are we now? but also Where should we be?

The leader should make very clear:

  • Who is responsible for the scoreboard
  • When it will be posted
  • How often it will be updated

Scoreboard Builder

Use the scoreboard builder tool to experiment with scoreboards for your WIG.

Applying Discipline 4: Create a cadence of accountability

The real truth about human nature is that what gets measured does get done – but only for a while. Then other human reactions are likely to cut in, such as “Why are they always measuring us?” and “Who really cares if we make those numbers, anyway?”

Discipline 4 breaks this cycle by constantly reconnecting the team members to the game. More crucially, it reconnects them in a personal way. Because they are frequently and regularly accountable to one another, they become invested in the results and play to win.

What is a WIG session?

It’s a meeting that takes place regularly, at least weekly, and it has a fixed agenda:

  1. Account: report on last week’s commitments to move the lead measures
  2. Review the scoreboard: learn from successes and failures.
    • the team assesses whether their commitments are moving the lead measure and whether the lead measure is moving the lag measure.
  3. Plan: clear the path and make new commitments
    • each member of the team makes commitments for the coming week that will raise the lead measures to the required level of performance.
    • because team members create the commitments themselves, and because they are publicly accountable for them to each other, they go away determined to follow through – it becomes personally important.

WIG Session Agenda

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