The Four Disciplines of Execution - Chris McChesnney, Sean Covey & Jim Huling

The Four Disciplines of Execution - Chris McChesnney, Sean Covey & Jim Huling

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes  

The Four Disciplines of Execution

“There are two principle things a leader can influence when it comes to producing results: your strategy (or plan) and your ability to execute that strategy."

"Stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: Which of these do leaders struggle with more? Is it creating a strategy, or executing the strategy? Every time we post this question to leaders anywhere in the world, their answer is immediate: ‘Execution!’"

"Now, ask yourself a second question: If you have an MBA or have taken business classes, what did you study more—execution or strategy?"

"When we ask leaders this question, the response, once again, is immediate, ‘Strategy!’ It’s perhaps not surprising that the area with which leaders struggle most is also the one in which they have the least education."

"After working with thousands of leaders and teams in every kind of industry, and in schools and government agencies worldwide, this is what we have learned: once you’ve decided what to do, your biggest challenge is in getting people to execute it at the level of excellence you need."

"The book you are reading represents the most actionable and impactful insights from all that we’ve learned. In it, you will discover a set of disciplines that have been embraced by thousands of leaders and hundreds of thousands of front-line workers, enabling them to produce extraordinary results.”

Not just for leaders..

I know this book is mostly marketed as a 'leadership' book!  

But I want to make a case that this book is one of the best 'self leadership' books of all time..

The Principles an Disciplines here (if followed) are just going to lead you to have a better life!

Who better to lead?

The first person we should start with leading is ourselves..  This action allows us to lead others with integrity and congruence vs 'top down rules' that we make up (or read in books). 

Having a leadership view of ourselves is a great way to progress through life..

After all aren't we all generally the worst leader we've ever had!

I mean if a leader in a company said some of the negative things I say about myself to myself I would quit on the spot.. 

Why is that okay coming from myself but not from an external leader?

Let's cultivate an internal leader starting today..

One that leads following the principles we'll talk about as follows!

But first let's get aware.. 

How does your relationship with your internal leader look right now?

What type of leader do you want to be for yourself?

Why is it important for you to lead yourself instead of leaving yourself to your natural instinct?

Then we can look at execution.. 

How are you going to help yourself (and others) truly get great things done?

What system are you following that ensures your goals are achievable? 

The one we'll talk about today is probably the best in the world..  I'm committing to the four disciplines!


“Although the disciplines 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, lead a small sales team, or run a Fortune 500 company. We believe they represent a major breakthrough in how to move teams and organizations forward."

Here’s a quick overview of the 4 Disciplines.

Discipline 1. Focus on the Wildly Important. 

  • Basically, the more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish. 
  • This is a stark, inescapable principle that we all live with.

Discipline 2. Act on Lead Measures. 

  • This is the discipline of leverage. It’s based on the simple principle that not all actions are created equal. 
  • Some actions have more impact that others when reaching for a goal. And it is those you want to identify and act on if you want to reach your goal.

Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scorecard. 

  • People play differently when they are keeping score. 
  • If you doubt this, watch any group of teenagers playing basketball and see how the game changes the minute scorekeeping begins.

Discipline 4: Create a Cadence of Accountability. 

  • Discipline 4 is where execution really happens. 
  • The first three disciplines set up the game, but until you apply Discipline 4, your team isn’t in the game.


“The first discipline is to focus your finest efforts on the one or two goals that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals." 

"Execution starts with focus. Without it, the other three disciplines won’t be able to help you."

"Simply put, Discipline 1 is about applying more energy against fewer goals because, when it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity.”

Set fewer goals..  Not common advice!

Most of us know how important goals are..

  • They are part what motivates us to self actualize and become our best selves!
  • The shear act of setting goals makes your more likely to accomplish your vision and be connected to your purpose..

But do we know how important our goals are?

  • This is a slightly different scenario..  If we set multiple goals (or set and reset goals based on our whims) how important can they really be?
  • If we set a dozen goals which ones do we focus on..
  • If we reset our goals weekly how can we really commit to them..

Set a small number of Wildly Important Goals!

I tend to think 2-5 goals at any one time can be focused on..  
Generally they are going to be in different areas of your life.

  • Fitness
  • Business
  • Relationship
  • Finance

But each of them should feel wildly important to you..  Because if they don't you won't be willing or able to commit a high amount of energy to them!


“The real enemy of execution is your day job!" 

"We call it the whirlwind. It’s the massive amount of energy that’s necessary just to keep your operation going on a day-to-day basis; and, ironically, it’s also the thing that makes it so hard to execute anything new. The whirlwind robs from you the focus required to move your team forward."

"Leaders seldom differentiate between the whirlwind and strategic goals because both are necessary to the survival of the organization. However, they are clearly different, and more important, they compete relentlessly for time, resources, energy, and attention. We don’t have to tell you which will usually win this fight."

"The whirlwind is urgent and it acts on you and everyone working for you every minute of every day. The goals you’ve set for moving forward are important, but when urgency and importance clash, urgency will win every time. Once you become aware of this struggle, you will see it playing out everywhere, in any team that is trying to execute something new.”

Don't sacrifice the Important for the Urgent!

Certainly easier said than done..

  • Unless you have built a very purposeful life/business you're likely spending a lot of time reacting to urgent matters..
  • Things that need to be done at a particular time and place..  (SOMETIMES NOW)

These urgent tasks take a lot of time and energy..

  • Which are both very limited resources!  And also happen to be needed to accomplish our Important Goals!
  • Do you ever have long days where you got a lot done..  But nothing felt like it moved forward?

How do we be sure to spend time on the important?

  • Simple: schedule time for the important before the urgent can intervene.
  • This is a MUST!  If you don't schedule time for the important the urgent will always win.
  • What this looks like:

For me I've got a lot of urgent stuff to work on..  

My marketing business

My coaching business

But these YouTube videos aren't quite as urgent!  However, they are important for my long term goals.

Therefore I need to schedule time before the urgent kicks in!

Everymorning at 5am I'm committed to doing at least 1 hour of Mind Mapping..  

If I miss that..  I likely am going to miss it for the entire day!  Important over Urgent.


“Let’s drill down into the distinction between lag and lead measures." 

"A lag measure is the measurement of a result you are trying to achieve. We call them lag measures because by the time you get the data the result has already happened; they are always lagging. The formula from X to Y by when in a WIG gives us a lag measure, but WIGs are not the only lag measures in your world. The whirlwind is full of lag measures such as revenue, accounts payable, inventory numbers, hospitalization rates, asset utilization, and so forth."

"Lead measures are different; they foretell the result. They have two primary characteristics. First, a lead measure is predictive, meaning that if the lead measure changes, you can predict that the lag measure also will change. Second, a lead measure is influenceable; it can be directly influenced by the team. That is, the team can make a lead measure happen without a significant dependence on another team.”

How are you measuring your progress?

Both of these measurements are important..

  • Some may think of them as outcome/behavior based goals!  One leads to the other.
  • Lead measures are called that because they LEAD to the outcome you want..

Why do we so often focus on Lag measures?

  • When setting goals we generally set Outcome based goals (lag measures) that are the results we want!
  • This is a perfect way to set goals..  Because it leads to what we want!  But we're missing a step..
  • After setting out Outcomes we need to understand what will lead to those outcomes.. 

If we spend all our time focusing on the outcome we want (lag measures) we actually aren't moving towards it!

In fact..  Most of the time if we focus too much on lag measures we can get discouraged and feel we don't have the ability to accomplish them!

Focusing on the Lead Measures!

  • First let's look at your WIG..  What is it?
  • Next let's dive into what behaviors you need to accomplish in order to achieve the WIG..  What are they?
  • Finally take those behaviors and turn them into Lead Measures..  
  • Example: 

WIG: 1 Million Viewers a Year Next Year

Behavior(s): Post More Videos!  Promote More!

Lead Measures: Number of Videos Posted and Number and Type of Promotions!

Keep Score

“The third discipline is to make sure everyone knows the score at all times, so that they can tell whether or not they are winning. This is the discipline of engagement."

"Remember, people play differently when they are keeping score. The difference in performance between a team that simply understands their lead and lag measures as a concept, and a team that actually knows their score, is remarkable." 

"If the lead and lag measures are not captured on a visual scoreboard and updated regularly, they will disappear into the distraction of the whiteboard. Simply put, people disengage when they don’t know the score. When they can see at a glance whether or not they are winning they become profoundly engaged.”

How are you keeping score in your life?

Focusing on lead measures is important..

  • But to do that we need to actually keep score!
  • Something a lot of us are unwilling or at least unwanting to do..  
  • Keeping score means we are accountable for our actions!  Something that can be difficult if we're prone to being hard on ourselves.

Once you know your lead measures keep track!

  • That which is measured improves after all.. 
  • Do you want to continually put in 2 hours of deep work each morning? Mark it off on the calendar.
  • Do you want to continually exercise 4 times a week?  Write it down in a notebook. 

These measures are all important to make sure we're making progress..

  • But they do more than that..  They keep us on track and force us to play at our highest level!
  • Making sure you have a cadence of tracking, accountability and an easy to see scoreboard will do an amazing amount for your motivation!
  • Each time you have a small win it's time to celebrate (coming from Tiny Habits this is one of the most important things we can do). 

I Don't Care

“Envision for yourself the day you report the achievement of your wildly important goal to your own leaders." 

"What would that day be like for your team? For you? Now, imagine that day never comes. Imagine you forget everything you’ve read in this book."

"Consider spending the future in the midst of a relentless whirlwind where everything is always urgent and the really important priorities are forever postponed."

"The great management scientist Peter Drucker observed, ‘I’ve seen a great many people who are magnificent at getting the unimportant things done. They have an impressive record of achievement on trivial matters.’"

"But you don’t want to be magnificently trivial. You want to make a high-level, high-impact contribution. The 4 Disciplines of Execution can take you there.”

Focusing on one thing means forgetting a lot of other things..  Be ready!

Focusing on high level - high impact goals means you have to forget some things..

  • These things will be different for everyone..  But sacrifice will be required!
  • Maybe it's giving up your TV or news habit..
  • Maybe it's forgetting about 12 business ideas to focus on the 1 that will be successful..
  • Maybe it's having a close circle of supportive friends rather than a large social circle..

To create the life you want you'll need to make room!  Don't focus on the unimportant.

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