I read The Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) a few months ago. It was recommended to me several times—I wish I had read it sooner. It’s in the genre of business productivity systems, which is not surprising since one of the authors, Sean Covey, is the son of Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
Like many books in this genre, the book is part of an entire ecosystem, with courses, videos, etc. You can get a good overview there.
Here is a quick summary of the 4 disciplines (it’s more complex than this—the book is worth reading for details)
- Have a single important goal that would make a meaningful difference (in your business, life, etc). This will have some lagging indicator.
- Figure out a leading indicator that you can act on and track. This is something you can do every day that will build up to the important goal.
- Build a compelling scoreboard that tells you if you are winning (achieving the leading indicator).
- Have regular (weekly) accountability meetings where you only discuss the goal, leading indicators, and how to put points on the board
To give an example, here’s how I am applying it to my fitness:
- Important goal: Reduce Body Fat %. I am doing this primarily by increasing muscle mass. My lagging indicators are goals in bench press and strict pull-ups.
- Leading indicator: Days per week doing resistance training.
- Scoreboard: I track the workouts on my Apple Watch. I can see the count in the fitness apps I use. My scale tells me Body Fat % to make sure I’m on track. I am also tracking hours in Zone 2 and higher as a secondary indicator.
- Accountability: I review it weekly and schedule the next week’s workouts. I also go to Crossfit, which gives me access to coaches that can help.
My personal growth goal is to publish some pamphlets (short books) this year. Here’s my 4DX
- Important goal: publish pamphlets. Lagging indicator is 2 books.
- Leading indicator: Hours writing per week.
- Scoreboard: I’m using personal productivity software that I am working on.
- Accountability: I am making season four of my podcast about this where I will discuss my process and progress.
My work goal is to launch the productivity tool I am working on
- Important goal: Launch
- Leading indicator: Hours coding
- Scoreboard: Also tracking in this tool
- Accountability: I have weekly meeting with my partner where we discuss progress.
All of my leading indicators are in SMART goal format: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The main difference is that they are very short-term and more about process.
Obviously, it doesn’t matter if I achieve the leading indicators, but not the lagging ones—the lagging ones are the real goal. The idea (from 4DX) is that leading indicators are something you can act on and track each day. You trust yourself to pick things that are likely to result in the bigger goal. You adjust if they aren’t.