4DX Strategy

Implemeting the 4 Disciplines of Execution

After developing an an influencer strategy, my next goal in Leading Organizational Change at Lamar University was to implement the ideas from The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals into a 4DX strategy for my work team and colleagues that will address how we will implement my innovation plan to bring about change in the learning environment.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution

In the education field we are often so absorbed with the routine of curriculum planning, instruction, feedback, and administrative tasks, all while adhering to institutional and/or state standards, that we lose focus on the big picture "why" of educating our students. Being consumed in the "whirlwind" of the day-to-day tasks of our jobs means that we are not able to create an atmosphere where the actual goals of our professional roles are being advanced, and where strategies of innovation in our teaching is and learning are not being executed.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution, developed by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, serve as precise procedures for translating strategy into action at all levels of an organization. The 4DX model helps us to avoid the distractions of the institutional whirlwind around us and focus on a strategy for implementing an innovation plan in our organizational setting.

Execution starts with focus: the first task is to identify and emphasize focus on the one or two goals that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals. These one or two goals are called wildly important goals or WIGS. Focusing on WIGS means that we have narrowed the number of goals we are attempting to accomplish beyond the day-to-day demands of the whirlwind. Discipline 1 is about applying more energy to fewer goals. When it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns certainly does apply: the more goals an individual or team choose to focus on, the less likely they are to accomplish any single goal.

Human beings only have the ability to focus on one task at a time; attempting to multitask on multiple goals essentially creates a new whirlwind where we expend energy on things that do not help us accomplish our goals.

Once identified, the WIG points us to our lag measures, which are measures which tell us if we’ve achieved the goal of the innovation plan. We further need to identify lead measures, which measure the results we are trying to achieve. These lead measures regulate the activities most connected to achieving the goal and are things which are directly within our control on a daily basis.

The third discipline deals with maintaining engagement; by keeping a compelling scoreboard, we can make sure everyone knows the score at all times, so that they can tell whether or not they are winning at achieving our goals. A compelling scoreboard has these characteristics:

  • Simplicity: It shows only the data necessary to move the plan forward.
  • Visibility: It is visible to all of the team members, helping drive accountability.
  • It shows lead and lag measures: The lead shows what the team can influence and the lag shows their results.

Sample Weekly Scoreboard for Lead Measures

The last step of the 4DX process is to to create a cadence of accountability, a frequently recurring cycle of accounting for past performance and planning to move the score forward. This is the discipline that will bring the key team members implementing the plan together for weekly WIG meetings that last no more than 20 - 30 minutes. On the agenda for these meetings:

  • Report on commitments to hold ourselves and others accountable.
  • Review the scoreboard to learn from our successes and failures.
  • Plan and commit to new or modified goals.


McChesney et al. described five stages of behavior change that most teams go through when going through a process that endeavors to change human behavior, such a installing an innovation plan using the 4DX strategy. These stages are:

  1. Getting clear about the commitment required from the team to install 4DX and developing and detailing the ideas to execute each discipline of the strategy.

2. Launching the actions to address the WIG. This is where the team needs to maintain their focus and energy, not get caught up in the daily whirlwind, and to identify the individuals who are models, potentials, and resisters.

3. Adoption of the the 4DX process and new behaviors drive that the achievement of the WIG by the team. This is where resistance can be expected to fade and enthusiasm to increase as 4DX begins to work for team members.

4. Optimization occurs as the team shifts to a 4DX mindset. They will become more purposeful and engaged in their work as they produce results that make a difference, and will start looking for ways to optimize their performance.

5. Habituation of 4DX allows the team to not only to reach their goal, but also to see a permanent increase in their level of performance. 4DX helps leaders drive a strategy that depends on changing human behavior to create lasting organizational change.

Influencer vs. 4DX

I used the Influencer model to develop a strategy that would help encourage the vital behaviors needed to implement the innovation plan in my organizational setting. I find that the Influencer model and 4DX do complement each other perfectly; Influencer being the most useful to prepare the team for the challenge of implementing a new plan, while 4DX is a great way to approach making and maintaining focus on goals, and managing the team. The graphic on the right compares and contrasts the features of the two models:


Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. New York, NY: Free Press.