Executing the Next to Impossible

The hustle and bustle of everyday life leads to deadlines passing us by, kids growing too fast, and challenges at work that are never completed; yet, we have so many amazing ideas that we know we could never possibly achieve due to our limited time constraints.  The whirlwind of our everyday lives tends to consume us in ways that prevent us from achieving anything outside of our required daily duties. Have you ever felt like you were struggling just to keep your head above water with your daily responsibilities, then your boss walks in and asks you to do “a small favor” for him? I know I have, and the battle of planning and prioritizing to ensure that everything gets done can be a nightmare.

I refuse to let my innovation plan be one of those statistics

So, how are we supposed to implement such a massive organizational change factor when everyone is already consumed with the whirlwind of their everyday lives? In McChesney’s (2012) video, he tells us that Ram Charan stated, “70% of strategic failures are due to poor execution of leaders.” I refuse to let my innovation plan be one of those statistics! The 4DX model helps us overcome this whirlwind by implementing 4 disciplines to execute our goals. Once again urgency comes into play. All the items in our whirlwind are urgent. The sense of urgency is there, and they take priority over anything else. The goals are our new activities, or extra ideas we want to achieve. These goals are important, but not urgent; therefore, when push comes to shove, our goals get sent to the back burner in the whirlwind of life. The urgency of the whirlwind acts on us, and we are forced to deal with it whether we want to or not; however, we must choose to act on the importance of our goals, and make an extra effort to do so. Using the 4DX model explained below, accompanied with the Influencer Strategy, I feel most certain that I will be able to successfully implement my Enhancing with E-ports innovation plan!

Before we get to the meat and veggies, let’s define a few teams first:

Team Leader:

  • Chelsea Hoke

Leadership Team:

  • Department Chair- Pat O’Connor
  • Program Director- Weldon Jacobs
  • Early Adopter- Edgar Neely
  • IT Supervisor- Sam Dockens

Faculty Rollout Team:

  • Instrumentation Instructors:
    • Minus Hargrave
    • Patrick Culp
    • Steve Champagne
    • Mike Sedeurick

4 Disciplines of Execution

Discipline One: Focus on the Wildly Important

Ensuring that my plan is clear, concise, and easy to follow is an essential component of a solid foundation. We need to narrow our focus to what is “wildly important”. To do this, we must filter out some of the day-to-day whirlwind, and determine what will truly affect the outcome of our plan. When working in this phase, we need to be certain we are keeping things simple and realistic. Sure, we may want to try 17 new ideas; however, there will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute.

The 4DX model encourages us to be realistic and stick to 1-2 goals at a time to prevent becoming overwhelmed and hopeless. We will make it a priority to identify the WIGs (Wildly Important Goals) for our plan. We can identify sub-goals, but they should always be geared towards helping achieve the WIG. Focusing on this narrow path helps us stay on track and dedicated even during our busiest times of the daily whirlwind.

there will always be more good ideas than there is capacity to execute. 

My WIG: Launch the Enhancing with E-Ports Plan to all instrumentation instructors at LIT raising e-portfolio implementation in the classrooms from 28% to 100% by the end of the Fall 2019 semester to help students document their learning experiences.

Having team members actively involved and engaged in the planning process will help ensure they stay motivated and excited

I have created the tentative WIG above; however, it is subject to change after meeting with my leadership team. The leadership team will also help me develop our lead and lag measures. Lead measures tell us what it is we need to perform, change, track, and measure to achieve the desired outcome or change, which results in our lag measure, or product. I will discuss the differences between these two measures and how they relate to one another with my leadership team. I will provide them with examples and ensure they fully understand them before collaboratively establishing the lead and lag measures. After identifying these components, we will also work together to design an effective, simple scoreboard in a central location that is convenient for everyone (I will discuss the scoreboard further in Discipline 3). During our first meeting, we will also commit to regular weekly meetings at an agreed upon time. This will most likely be a Friday morning since everyone is required to come to campus, but most people do not have classes that day. The first Friday meeting will be a kickoff meeting. This initial meeting will be a little longer than the others to allow us time to explain everything to the faculty rollout team, brainstorm, and gather ideas. Having team members actively involved and engaged in the planning process will help ensure they stay motivated and excited about the work we will be doing, rather than becoming bitter and resentful towards something that I am forcing upon them.

Discipline Two: Act on Lead Measures

“To achieve a goal you’ve never achieved before, you must do things you’ve never done before”                                                 -McChesney, Covey, & Huling

It’s game time! Now we know where we are trying to go, but how do we get there? In life, we tend to focus more on our destination (lag measure) because that is what we are reaching for and we have become a society of instant gratification where we want to see results now. Focusing on the lag measures is also more common because that data is easily trackable. If we want real results, we should keep our focus on the most direct path that will help us reach our destination (our lead measures). There are two rules about lead measures. The first rule is they are predictive. We know that if we do these things, the results are predictable. The second is they are influenceable. We can personally make changes that will have a direct affect in our favor. As stated in The 4 Disciplines of Execution, “To achieve a goal you’ve never achieved before, you must do things you’ve never done before” (McChesney, Covey, & Huling, 2016, p. 53).  When we channel our focus to our lead measures and act on these alone, we will see results sooner that will last longer, and reduce the likelihood of becoming discouraged and overwhelmed. Keeping our focus on the lead measures will also help us predict if our actions are going to be successful.

As I mentioned previously, my leadership team will be helping me develop the lead and lag measures to help us reach our WIG, but I would imagine they may end up something like this:

Lag Measure: Obtain 80% instrumentation faculty participation on department blog by December 2017.

Lead Measure: Create a department blog where all Instrumentation Instructors will share lessons learned and current activities.

  • I will create the platform for the department blog and provide access to each instructor. This will be a place where we can showcase what we have going on inside the classroom as well as through extracurricular activities and recruiting opportunities.
  • Instructors will also be encouraged to post any potential job/co-op/intern opportunities that become available to our students, as well as any new techniques, ideas, or tools they discover that could possibly be helpful to other instructors.

Lead Measure: Utilize technology (department blog) at department meetings instead of paper agenda and handouts.

  • Meeting agenda will be posted on the blog beforehand, along with any handouts that pertain to topics covered.
  • Key findings from the department blog will be summarized at each department meeting.

“ultimately, it’s the front line of an organization that creates the bottom-line result you’re after”                                                  -McChesney, Covey, & Huling

Once I create the blog, introduce it to faculty members, and begin using it at all department meetings, other instructors will see how beneficial it can be, and will be encouraged to use it as a communications tool.  At this point, I will have my early adopter, Edgar Neely, begin talking to other colleagues about his personal e-portfolio, the department blog, and the benefits that he is personally gaining from them since, “ultimately, it’s the front line of an organization that creates the bottom-line result you’re after” (McChesney, Covey, & Huling, 2016, p. 63). The lead measures our team decide on will help us reach our lag measure, which will ultimately help us reach our WIG!

Discipline Three: Create a Compelling Scoreboard

To successfully track progress and keep our teammates engaged we need to design something for the team to use as a group.  This component is much like the social and structural areas of the Influencer matrix. We are manipulating the environment and using peer pressure in our favor to continuously monitor our progress; after all, no one wants to be “outdone” by their colleagues, right?  This device we are going to use will become our scoreboard. It will keep us up to date on what is going on and where we stand in our plan.

With the proper motivation, when people feel like they are losing, they will push harder, work smarter, and drive further than ever expected.

If you’ve ever been involved in a Little Dribblers basketball (or any other youth sport) program, you have probably noticed the difference between a scrimmage and a game. The players are less focused, less determined, and less driven in a scrimmage. Why? They have no sense of urgency or direction because they have no knowledge of who is winning or losing. In a game situation, the players and fans can look at the scoreboard and in a split second identify if they are up or down, and exactly how far they need to go to be “winning” if they are behind at that moment.

We need to create a scoreboard- but not just any scoreboard, a compelling scoreboard! Our scoreboard needs to be simple and clutter free. If you know anything about sports, you also know that the coaches are keeping up with much more than what is displayed on the scoreboard, but to make it user friendly, it is simplified to the necessary information for the players and fans. We will act on this same idea by not overloading our teammates with details that will only confuse them.

We need to make our scoreboard user friendly so our teammates can easily understand the information presented, and it needs to be in a highly visible area where everyone has access to it. The scoreboard needs to properly identify the lead and lag measures so everyone knows what they need to be working on at all times, and it needs to be easily adjustable to update our progress. And last, but not least, our teammates need to be able to tell immediately if we are losing. With the proper motivation, when people feel like they are losing, they will push harder, work smarter, and drive further than ever expected. When people feel like they are winning at work, they will become moor engaged and eager to succeed and continue to push themselves.

As I mentioned previously, I want to get input from my team before completely designing the scoreboard, but I have a few ideas brewing already. I was able to borrow some great ideas from the extra resources provided by the QR Code in The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Considering we are an Instrumentation program, I want our team to design a physical board with analog slides for each Instrumentation faculty member. When a certain percentage reach various levels we can have different colored lights come on that indicate we are on track to reach our goal. This is only a tentative plan, but definitely a starting point for the board design.

Discipline Four: Create a Cadence of Accountability

This discipline is where the rubber meets the road. This is the time to lead by example, practice what you preach, and start creating good habits. It doesn’t matter how well we perform Disciplines 1, 2, & 3, if we do not properly apply Discipline 4, “where execution actually happens” (McChesney, Covey, & Huling, 2016, p. 77), our master plan will crumble around us.

We all know we perform better when we feel like someone is watching us, looking up to us, or depending on us.  If we feel like what we are doing goes unnoticed and does not make a difference, it is hard to stay dedicated and focused. This is the point of accountability. Think about a gym partner. If you are getting up at 5:00 am to exercise alone, you may stay strong for the first week. If you do not show up that next Monday, who is going to know you slept in? And we all know how easy it is to miss Tuesday after you missed Monday, then how hard it is to get back on Wednesday or Thursday! However, if you are getting up at 5:00 am to exercise with a friend who has asked you for support and motivation, you are more likely to last much longer because you know someone needs you. Now if you sleep in on that Monday, you will probably have a phone call or two asking where you are, and if everything is ok. Chances are, you will be back in the gym on Tuesday!

“People are not stupid or lazy, they are busy”                                -Chris McChesney

This is where the weekly meetings, better known as WIG sessions, I mentioned in Discipline 1 come into play. These WIG sessions will be short, to the point, and help establish the weekly rhythm of accountability for driving progress toward the WIG (McChesney, Covey, & Huling, 2016, p. 79). It is essential that the WIG sessions follow a strict agenda containing to same content each week. Each WIG session will allow teammates to:

  1. Report on commitments (Approx. 10 min)
    • Allow teammates to discuss what activities they committed to the past week
    • If they were able to complete it, what did they gain from it?
    • If they were not able to complete it, why?
  2. Review the scoreboard (Approx. 5 min)
    • Discuss where we stand on our lead measures
    • Identify if we have seen movement in our lag measure
    • Where do we stand overall in relation to our WIG
  3. Make new commitments (Approx. 10 min)
    • Clear the paths from any problems that prevented teammates from completing previous commitments
    • Make new weekly commitments toward lead measures

Notice I have approximately 25 minutes set aside for the WIG session. In the beginning, our meetings may take a little longer, but eventually when our team gets in the routine of the sessions, I want to have them as quick and efficient as possible to minimize time away from our raging whirlwind of daily, routine duties.  As Chris McChesney stated, “People are not stupid or lazy, they are busy” (Executive overview of the 4 disciplines of execution, 2012). To keep the meetings in this precise timeframe, it may be necessary to route detail discussions to another meeting between the concerned people. I want to be extremely careful so that no one feels as though they are being brushed off, but I want to make a point to stay on track, focused, and time respectful. 

5 Stages of Change

Now that we are ready to roll, let’s review a few things to be looking for. As we go through this process it is important to remember that the items mentioned above are disciplines; therefore, it takes just that- discipline. No one said it will be easy, but it will be worth it! Below are a few short summaries of the stages of change to expect when we begin installing 4DX with the team.

No one said it will be easy, but it will be worth it!

Stage 1: Getting Clear

This is where we lay the foundational groundwork for our execution! We decide on the finalized WIG as well as the lead and lag measures as a group. We also work together to design an effective scoreboard to be created and used during the WIG sessions. During this stage, we also commit to a meeting time that everyone agrees with, and begin to get the group excited about starting our project. From here, we are ready to proceed!

Stage 2: Launch

Here’s our kickoff to the big game! This is where we get everyone rolling toward our WIG. Extensive engagement, collaboration, and motivation from the start will help steer the team in the right direction. I plan to hold a kickoff meeting to get everyone excited and on the same page. From there we will begin our weekly routine WIG sessions, and dive straight into work! In this phase, I will focus on leading by example and using my Early Adopter Mr. Neely as an extra model and example.

Stage 3: Adoption 

In this phase, we should start seeing some of the resistors have a shift in attitude. Hopefully they will start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and become excited and motivated as they begin to see our lead measures effectively shifting our lag measures.

Stage 4: Optimization

This is where the team can finally see if we are winning the game, and what we need to do to change it if we aren’t. We will evaluate our scoreboard regularly, and if we are lacking on anything, we will make necessary adjustments. At this point, hopefully we will have more and more faculty members willing to step up and lead as models as they begin to take ownership in their work.

Stage 5: Habits

When something becomes a habit, we feel the need to do it. We need to follow through with it. It burdens us when we do not complete our tasks once they are habitual. “When 4DX becomes habitual, you can expect not only to reach the goal but also to see a permanent rise in the level of your team’s performance” (McChesney, Covey, & Huling, 2016, p. 112). This is the point where we hope to see more than just behavioral changes; we are striving to see a cultural shift to excellent execution!

Influencing the 4 Disciplines of Execution

While the 6 Sources of Influence and the 4 Disciplines of Execution are both laid out in completely separate formats, I personally see many similarities. I feel like the Influencer strategy touches on more of the personality attributes and perspectives such as peer pressure, motivation, personal ability, and more. On the other hand, 4DX focuses more on the process and the execution of the implementation. Both systems focus entirely on creating change within an organization where it would most likely be seen as near impossible. I think I will try using the two models together. I want to start with the Influencer strategy to identify my desired result (my tentative WIG), my vital behaviors (which I feel like relate very closely to my tentative lead measures), and then walk through the 6 sources of influence matrix to help me set up a successful change attitude, ability, atmosphere, and environment.  After I have everything identified and ready to launch, I will begin to implement the 4DX model described above to start the execution process. I have extremely high goals for my organization, and I will not give up until I reach them!


Executive overview of the 4 disciplines of execution [Video file]. (2012, April 19). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/EZR2Ixm0QQE

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2016). The 4 disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. New York, NY: Free Press.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s