The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling (2012), New York, NY: Free Press.

April 2014

 

I often enjoy reading books that corporate leaders view as movers and shakers in the industry.  The 4 Disciplines of Execution is such a book.  Many chief executive officers have touted this book as saving their organizations fiscally as well as encouraging more collegiality and workplace performance and productivity.  The premise behind the book is that there are four disciplines to execute change within an organization; and if these disciplines are followed exactly, then success and effectiveness are guaranteed.  The four disciplines are:

  • Focus on wildly important goals (WIGs),
  • Act on the lead measures,
  • Keep a compelling scoreboard,
  • Create a cadence of accountability.

The first discipline is to set a goal that is wildly important.  The chapters pertaining to this discipline describe how to generate, vet, and establish one or two goals that will have universal buy-in as well as universal engagement.  The emphasis is to set only one or two goals and no more.  The authors talked specifically about the whirlwind being all of the other things that we get caught up in and that if we are not intentional our goals are lost.  This really hit home to me because, this year, I thought we had too many things going on. Luckily, we did not lose them in the operational whirlwind and maintained our aspirations.

The next discipline was on creating lead measures that would help the organization reach its WIGs.  Lead measures are the evaluations of the activities that are most connected to achieving the goals.  All programs, units, and departments should indicate what they must do in order to reach the WIG; therefore, they must establish a lead measure that is most conducive to their sphere of influence.

The third discipline is to keep a compelling scoreboard.  Participants, in order to move the goal forward, must see daily and weekly how they are progressing.  The analogy that was given is that if a team played a sport without a scoreboard, the energy and enthusiasm would be lackluster.  A scoreboard drives internal motivation, holds individuals accountable, and promotes teamwork and collaboration. 

The final discipline is to create accountability across teams and with individuals.  Each person must be aware how his or her effort or lack of effort affects the program, unit, or department.  The person needs to be held individually accountable for his or her productivity and should be encouraged, celebrated, cautioned, or reprimanded accordingly.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the book because I want our College of Education to be on the cutting edge and leading the state and the nation as a premier institution.  I do realize that there is a different culture in the academy – such as academic freedom and tenure – that makes these type of organizational emphases more challenging.  I do encourage others to read this book if they, too, are interested in organizational culture, productivity, and accountability.

 

Dr. Dwight C. Watson, Dean
College of Education
University of Northern Iowa