The 4 Disciplines of Execution



Do administrators, faculty, and staff know how to institutionalize goal clarity and strong execution — whether at a school district, college, university, or state agency?

Executing on strategic goals and objectives is a critical challenge in education institutions today. With a diverse mix of departments, it becomes ever so difficult to align and focus everyone on achieving the institutions top goals and expectations. Imagine an organization where all stakeholders are focused and aligned to the most important priorities.

Move the Middle

Although The 4 Disciplines of Execution may seem simple at first glance, they are not simplistic. They will profoundly change the way you approach your goals. Once you adopt them, you will never lead in the same way again, whether you are a project coordinator at a community college, oversee a local school district, or run a top-tier university. Here at FranklinCovey Education believe they represent a major breakthrough in how to move teams and organizations forward. The 4 Disciplines are sequential and interdependent—they must be done in order, and done well to achieve breakthrough results.

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FranklinCovey has studied the topic of execution for seven years in thousands of teams and in hundreds of organizations. Execution breaks down because of the conflict between the enormous amount of effort required to maintain an operation (your “day job” or what we call the “whirlwind”) and the goals for moving the operation forward. While both forces are necessary, they are not the same and do not get along. They compete for time, energy, and attention. Think about the key goals or strategies that you’ve seen die. How did they die? Did they come crashing down with a loud noise, or did they die quietly as they were suffocated by the “whirlwind”?

The 4DX Process

The real execution challenge is not merely executing on a goal, it’s executing on a goal in the midst of the whirlwind! What makes this execution challenge even more difficult are four common management breakdowns:

  1. They don’t know the goal. Our research shows that only 15 percent of employees know their organization’s most important goals—either there are no goals or they have too many goals, or there is limited transition of organizational priorities to the front line.
  2. They don’t know what to do to achieve the goal. Too many people don’t know what critical activities provide the greatest leverage to achieving team goals. Too often, people replace leveraged activities with frenetic busyness.
  3. They don’t keep score. Our research shows most workers don’t know what the key measures of success are; and they don’t measure and track the specific behaviors that lead to goal accomplishment.
  4. They are not held accountable. Our research shows fewer than 10 percent of people meet with their manager at least monthly to discuss their progress on work goals.

Overcoming these breakdowns is not easy. Far from it. While most workers have more choices and more technology than ever before, very few know how to filter through all the competing priorities to flawlessly execute on their most important goals.


The Whirlwind vs. Goals

How to Create an Execution Culture? Start by Moving the Middle One of the most significant barriers to superior results in any organization is chronic inconsistency—the variation in performance between divisions, between departments, between shifts in the same department, and between people on the same shift. In every great organization, you will find pockets of great execution—a “top 20 percent” of high performance. The challenge is to move the middle 60 percent of your average workforce toward the higher-performance level of the top 20 percent. Improvement of this magnitude doesn’t produce incremental results—it creates breakthrough results.

It takes incredible discipline to execute a strategic goal with excellence. But it takes even more discipline to do so again and again. Creating a culture of execution means embedding four basic disciplines into your institution. At every level, individuals, leaders, and teams need to institutionalize a common approach.

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important. Exceptional execution starts with narrowing the focus—clearly identifying what must be done, or nothing else you achieve really matters much.
  2. Act on the Lead Measures. Twenty percent of activities produce eighty percent of results. The highest predictors of goal achievement are the 80/20 activities that are identified and codified into individual actions and tracked fanatically.
  3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard. People and teams play differently when they are keeping score, and the right kind of scoreboards motivate the players to win.
  4. Create a Cadence of Accountability. Great performers thrive in a culture of accountability that is frequent, positive, and self-directed. Each team engages in a simple weekly process that highlights successes, analyzes failures, and course-corrects as necessary, creating the ultimate performance-management system.

In stark contrast to traditional training, this program takes a Six Sigma-like approach toward certifying faculty and staff to produce real work and real results. This Faculty and Staff Certification includes three levels:

  • Bronze Certification:
    Demonstrated adherence to The 4 Disciplines of Execution process.
  • Silver Certification:
    Continued adherence to The 4 Disciplines of Execution process and verification that the right activities and measures are on target toward influencing the key goals and objectives.
  • Gold Certification:
    Continued adherence to the The 4 Disciplines of Execution process and demonstrated achievement of a critical goal or objectives.