My Rating: Skim
- Prioritize Ruthlessly: Focus on 1-2 goals (only) that will make all the difference to your organization
1. THE DISCIPLINE OF FOCUS: Focus on your Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)
A WIG is a goal that’s so vital that all other goals won’t matter if it’s not achieved. This discipline is about focusing on 1-2 WIGs that will make all the difference to your organization. It’s ok to keep all your priorities on your radar, but focus on executing 1 WIG at a time so you can deliver it remarkably well. It involves translating a broad strategic concept into specific end-goals for every part of your organization so each team has its own WIG(s) and clear, measurable targets.
• Beware of these 2 focus traps that most leaders fall into:(i) Inability to reject good ideas. Resist the urge to take on every promising idea.
(ii) Making every whirlwind a WIG. We can’t ignore our whirlwind, yet we must avoid being lost in it. The key is to spend 80% of your time managing the whirlwind, but devote 20% of your time to your WIG for your biggest breakthroughs.
Installing Discipline 1 in your Team
To install the 4 Disciplines of Execution in your team, your first goal is to translate the broad organizational strategy into Team WIGs and specific targets.
• To narrow down your organizational focus, apply these 4 rules:(i) To avoid being overwhelmed each person must focus on ≤3 WIGs and each team must focus on ≤2 WIGs at any point in time.(ii) All lower-level WIGs (e.g. department WIGs) must support the higher-level WIGs (e.g. company WIGs). Win the battles that’ll help you to win the war.(iii) Senior leaders can veto but must not dictate the WIGs for every level. They should define the top-level WIG to guide the lower-levels) then allow each level to define and commit to their own WIGs.(iv) Every WIG must be expressed as a specific, measurable end-goal or lag measure, i.e. “from X to Y by when”. For example, your WIG may be to “improve client satisfaction from 55% to 80% in 2 years”. Avoid vague goals like “improve efficiency” or “retain the best employees.” Generally, treat the WIG as a tactical goal and keep the timeframe short enough to be compelling.
• Specifically, you can define your team WIGs and targets with these 4 steps:
(i) Brainstorm possible WIGs with an open mind. Use these 3 useful discovery questions: (a) Assuming existing performance is maintained on all fronts, what’s the 1 area that we can improve to achieve the organization’s WIG? (b) What are our team’s greatest strengths that we can leverage to ensure the overall WIG is achieved? (c) What are our team’s biggest performance gaps or areas for improvement to ensure the overall WIG is achieved?
(ii) Rank the possible team WIGs by their potential impact on the organizational WIG. For example, if your company’s WIG is about finances, you may rank the options in terms of potential revenues, profits, return on investments etc. If your company’s WIG is about quality, you could rank the options based on productivity improvements, customer satisfaction, cycle times etc.
(iii) Test the top options against these 4 criteria for high-impact: The team WIG must (a) be aligned with the overall WIG, (b) be measurable, (c) be results that’re ≥80% owned by the team and (d) depend mainly on the team (not the leader).
(iv) Define the WIG in a clear and measurable way. Start with a verb, keep it simple, focus on what (not how), and ensure the WIG is achievable. You can use the format “get from X to Y by when”, e.g. “increase revenue from corporate events from $12mil to $18 mil by 31 Dec”. For projects, focus on the desired business outcome rather than 100% project completion.
2. THE DISCIPLINE OF LEVERAGE: Work on the Lead Measures
All outcomes can be measured either as lead or lag measures. Lag Measures (e.g. weight loss) show your performance based on what happened in the past, while Lead Measures (e.g. diet and exercise) show the high-impact things that you must do now to reach your goal. This discipline is about deliberately focusing on the lead measures (or high-impact activities) that will drive your lag measures.
3. THE DISCIPLINE OF ENGAGEMENT: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
It’s not enough for people to understand what the lead measures are. For team members to perform at their best, they must be emotionally engaged. Everyone must know the score at all times, so they know if they’re winning or losing. This discipline is about motivating your team with a scoreboard tailored to the team members and your specific WIG(s).
4. THE DISCIPLINE OF ACCOUNTABILITY: Create a Rhythm of Accountability
It’s tough to execute a new strategy as it requires people to do something different while managing their daily whirlwinds. The first 3 disciplines help to bring focus, clarity and engagement, while this discipline ensures that people actually do what they should consistently to achieve the WIG. It’s about creating a regular, recurring cycle, where people account for past performance and plan for further improvements to the score.
For an individual focused on deep work, the implication is that you should identifya small number of ambitious outcomes to pursue with your deep work hours. Thegeneral exhortation to “spend more time working deeply” doesn’t spark a lot ofenthusiasm. To instead have a specific goal that would return tangible and substantialprofessional benefits will generate a steadier stream of enthusiasm. In a 2014 columntitled “The Art of Focus,” David Brooks endorsed this approach of letting ambitiousgoals drive focused behavior, explaining: “If you want to win the war for attention,don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the informationsmorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let theterrifying longing crowd out everything else.”
Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures
Lag measures describe the thing you’re ultimately trying to improve.
Lead measures, on the other hand, “measure the new behaviors that will drive success on the lag measures.”
Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
For an individual focused on his or her own deep work habit, there’s likely no team to meet with, but this doesn’t exempt you from the need for regular accountability. In multiple places throughout this book I discuss and recommend the habit of a weekly review in which you make a plan for the workweek ahead (see Rule#4). During my experiments with 4DX, I used a weekly review to look over my scoreboard to celebrate good weeks, help understand what led to bad weeks, and most important, figure out how to ensure a good score for the days ahead. This led me to adjust my schedule to meet the needs of my lead measure—enabling significantly more deep work than if I had avoided such reviews altogether