The people at FranklinCovey sure know what business life is like: running full-tilt at 125% with a to-do list that’s impossibly long and “stop that, do this instead right now!” raining down at random intervals. The book The 4 Disciplines of Execution helps managers and workers understand how to set aside the whirlwind and focus on the “Wildly Important Goals” that will truly get your company where it needs to go. Of course, being FranklinCovey, there’s a whole business enterprise set up to help companies implement the four disciplines.
That shouldn’t stop you from reading the book. I picked it up because it seems like great strategies wither away in the execution, as lack of resources, commitment, and focus turn yesterday’s sure-fire idea into today’s tedious task and tomorrow’s “what happened to that, anyway?”
And I was in love. In love with the idea that big goals can be accomplished, and the way to do it is to focus on the meaningful smaller bits that tell you are on the right track.
I’m not giving away any secrets when I tell you that here’s what you have to do:
- Focus on the wildly important
- Act on the lead measures
- Keep a compelling scoreboard
- Create a cadence of accountability
Let’s assume you are not the CEO of your company. But you are the CEO of you. How can you have more impact on You, Inc? Recognize that you can’t have 10 goals and knock them all out of the park. Pick two. You can still do the other eight, but you’re accepting right up front that those eight are not going to get the same amount of time and attention and, in fact, will probably just barely get crossed off your to-do list. But that’s okay, because right now ALL your goals are like that.
- Figure out what you know, for sure, will make a difference. If you’re in sales and trying to get your volume of sales up, you know that making calls is #1. If you’re an author trying to finish that novel, it’s “butt in chair” time.
- Then set a goal related to that “leading indicator.” 10 new contacts a day. Four hours in the chair Monday-Friday.
- Measure it. Not just did you do those 10 calls, or sit in that chair, but how did it work out? Is your call-to-sale ratio 30%? Will three sales a day get you where you want to be? If not, maybe you need 15 calls. For the author, how many words does four hours produce? If you need 45,000 words and you’re netting 1,500 a day, does that get your first draft done by deadline? Nope? Better add Saturday.
- Hold yourself accountable. What happens to our commitments? We water them down or walk away. We say we’ll keep writing until we get 3,000 words, but the chapter ends at 2,500 and really, that’s good enough. We say we’ll do 10 calls a day, but when the boss says “I need this report by end of day,” we recognize that some things are just out of our hands. And so a week goes by and oops, that call thing just wasn’t feasible. So you have to find a way to hold yourself accountable. A big sign taped to your computer might help.
If you’re more than the CEO of You, Inc. If you have a team , you’re in the enviable position of seeing your team’s work through a whole new perspective. For example, you see the part you play in creating the whirlwind: so stop giving your team distractions! And make sure that your teams’ personal goals (those things that are supposed to help accomplish your company’s Wildly Important Goals) are actually connected to the big goals in a way that will move the needle. Measure as you go along and keep people on track.
You can see clearly now. If you’re a convert to this concept, you’re seeing everything in a new way. It’s like the how-to book, Eat This, Not That. Everything is super, super clear: you have x-ray vision when it comes to the mistakes that others are making. Why doesn’t everybody see it as clearly as you do?
- It’s scary. When you’re used to a target and a range, then you’re really shooting for the bottom of the range (which you have carefully chosen to be do-able). Now you are really committing to the target. Augh.
- It’s hard to say no. Implicit in focusing on the WIG is the idea that other, non-WIG items will go away. They probably won’t. You have to be willing to do these items last, not first.
- Other things are more personally rewarding. You can recognize that while your job has four or five key areas, only one of them is actually connected to your company’s Wildly Important Goals. If you love that other stuff the most, it’s hard to transition your personal investment.
Just as important, find the wins. If you are nudging people in this direction, it’s very important to be the cheerleader. A friendly cheerleader who doesn’t take any excuses, but who also recognizes that people are doing a tough thing when they fight the whirlwind. Acknowledge effort and results… and most importantly, live up to your own vision. Don’t let culture snack on your strategy.