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The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling

The full title of this book by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling is

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals

In my review posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book 4 Stars. This means it is Good and Well Worth Reading.

Here is my book review.

Great concepts for achieving excellence in virtually any situation

This book is about creating change, getting people to implement a new strategy by changing what they do through commitment rather than compliance.

Many business books are based on looking at successful companies and finding common factors in what they do. Other times, academics will develop their theory and then go out looking for evidence it works. This book is different.

Before it was written, the authors had tested these ideas in more than 1,500 businesses. That’s staggering. Before the authors developed the ideas and started testing them in the real world, the amount of research into understanding the problems and solutions is incredible. It takes a business as large as FranklinCovey to do such an exercise.

Improvement initiatives often fail because of the “whirlwind”. This is a great name for all the day to day activities which have to be done to keep the business operating. Stuff happens and has to be dealt with so recognise the whirlwind and make improvements anyway.

One of the reasons why good intentions get overwhelmed is because too many good things are tried without recognising the few most critical elements that can drive improved success.

What Is The Four Disciplines Of Execution?

The Four Disciplines of Execution (often shortened to 4DX) is a powerful system where each element is essential to getting the best results:

  • Discipline 1 is focus on the wildly important goal (often shortened to WIG).
  • Discipline 2 is to act on improving lead measures.
  • Discipline 3 is to keep a compelling scoreboard visible to all team members.
  • Discipline 4 is to create a cadence of accountability through weekly meetings.

Concentrating on this system means improvement initiatives can move forward despite the whirlwind.

This sounds simple in theory and the book could have finished after part one and I’d have been wowed. The insight of the whirlwind and how it consumes more than one main goal is important. A great example where common sense isn’t that common or obvious when you’re in the heat of the battle.

Part two takes you deeper into the implementation issues of each discipline and then continues in a similar vein. This format of the book does mean it feels repetitive as it peels away layer after layer. For some, this will help reinforce learning, for others it will feel boring. I considered docking a star.

I read the kindle version and there are a number of diagrams too small to read and poor produced. Even when you zoom, these are hard to appreciate. I’m a visual leaner and again, I considered docking a star.

For much of the book, I thought I was going to criticise it for lacking guidance on how to choose the WIG (wildly important goal) and how it could link with your existing mission, vision and strategy. Fortunately, in a case study chapter, this issues was dealt with clearly, even though the important diagrams were poorly presented in the kindle format.

The final chapter looks at how 4DX can be used to achieve personal goals for your own health of for improving family relationships. Understanding the system can improve your life outside of work as well as your business.

I have a natural affinity towards 4DX as it brings together my beliefs about the benefit of focus and the importance of performance measures to explain the game and motivate performance when the manager keeps attention on them and regularly asks the question “what can you do next week to most influence the goal?”

My problem is with the execution of the book. I believe the authors had the best of intentions to share their knowledge, even if it’s also selling their training. Too often business books (and training) will tell you what to do but not how to do it. This book goes out of its way to give you plenty of guidance.

I think part of the problem is the wide scope. 4DX can be used by individuals, teams, small businesses and very large and complicated businesses. This creates a lot of different usage situations and means complexity and more explanations.

I read to help my own one man business and the small businesses I work with. Other readers won’t care about my issues because they are interested in applying the Four Disciplines to a large business or a department within a big organisation. I feel 4DX needs a series of books for different situations to help reduce the overwhelm. I have some resistance to recommending it to time pressed business owners and have docked one star.

I like the system a lot although it does become clear it is tough to maintain the process for long enough to get the gains you want. The book starts really well but then starts to feel like hard work. If you buy it, I urge you to persevere.

You can buy the book from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

There are many thousand of business books, you can see the full list of my reviews at Business Books Reviews by Paul Simister (Please click). I've also narrowed these down to a list of the 12 Best Business Books For Business Owners & Entrepreneurs (Please click).

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