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How to Excel at Getting Things Done Using the 4DX Method

Many people and organizations fail to attain their goals, or they don’t achieve as much as would have been possible using the resources at their disposal. This subpar performance can be attributed to a variety of factors, but Stephen Covey and Chris McChesney in their book The 4 Disciplines of Execution highlight four key principles that can supercharge productivity and performance at both individual and an organizational level. We explore the 4DX method that these authors write about in their book.

1. Focus on What’s Wildly Important

There is a big difference between being busy and working to attain the main objectives of your organization. The first key to supercharging your productivity is, therefore, selecting one or two wildly important objectives and you focus on those to the exclusion of all else.

This is easier said than done, given that so many things compete for our attention and focus on a daily basis. To stand a chance of succeeding, you have to be ruthless at cutting out all those good objectives that you would like to attain in favor of that one great objective that towers above all else.

Focusing on what is wildly important therefore requires everyone in the organization to learn to say no to all the other “distractions” that take resources away from the main objective/goal.

The Pareto Principle (80% of your results come from just 20% of your efforts, or a business person will see this as getting 80% of their revenue from 20% of his or her clients) applies in this case. Zero in on that one or two goals which will make the greatest difference and give it your all in order to realize phenomenal outcomes.

Let everyone in your organization know what is most important so that all efforts are directed in a way that helps to attain that key objective. On a personal level, you too can select just one major objective and block out all else. Warren Buffett did it by focusing on understanding companies and investments, and his financial results are a testament to the value of focusing on what’s wildly important to you.

2. Be Guided By Leading Measures

There are two key ways to keep track of the progress that you are making on the journey to attain the wildly important goals discussed earlier. One way is by taking a backward glance and assessing the outcomes in relation to the targets set. 

This is called using lagging indicators to measure your success. It is a postmortem of sorts because there is nothing that you can do to course-correct.

A better way to supercharge productivity and the attainment of your goals is by looking at leading measures to assess how well you are doing. These lead measures are action-oriented and in the present.

For example, if your target is to lose 20 pounds by the end of this year, a lag measure would be to wait until the end of the year and find out how much weight you actually lost.

A leading measure in this example would entail setting a daily workout target and making sure that you attain the target so that the eventual outcome (losing a defined amount of excess weight by the end of the year) becomes an almost foregone conclusion.

Leading measures are empowering because they keep your finger on the pulse of your progress towards the attainment of your goals. Take the hint from the writers of 4DX and transform yourself and your organization’s productivity.

3. Maintain a Compelling Scoreboard

Something magical happens when you start keeping score of how well you are doing. By nature, human beings are competitive and that is why a casual game takes on a very serious undertone once the players start keeping score of their performance.

For those of you who are soccer fans, you may know that the Community Shield, a soccer match which is played for charity just before the English Premier League season starts each year, is nothing like the friendly game it is supposed to be. The reason for this is that a scoreboard is maintained regarding who has played and won this game over the years, and comparisons are made about the likely trajectory of the football season based on this one game. Consequently, everyone is dead serious and gives more than 100 percent to secure victory. Without keeping score, things would probably pan out differently.

The same goes for your organization or your progress as an individual. Keeping score helps you to maintain laser focus on the goals identified in the first step of this 4DX method. This is especially true if you are following leading measures.

The scoreboard that you use will depend on the circumstances prevailing. For example, you could pin a sticker note on your fridge listing your targets for the week and you start ticking off each item that you complete.

For an organization, large tasks can be broken into smaller tasks and a scoreboard made to track the accomplishment of those smaller segments. In this way, each team member will know what is expected of them in the overall scheme of things (reaching organizational goals).

4. Have a Cadence of Accountability

This fourth discipline has variably been described as the most important of them all, but it can only kick in once all the previous three have been executed. Without accountability, all goal setting, leading measures and scoreboards will amount to nothing.

It is therefore important for you to hold yourself accountable as an individual, and it is also important for all team members in an organization to be accountable to each other and to their managers.

In a team, it is usually best to have short accountability meetings held on a weekly basis so that progress can be tracked, problems identified and course-correction undertaken in time to retain the trajectory of progress towards the attainment of the wildly important goal selected.

Related: Accountability – Coaching’s Key Element

Accountability ensures that you never lose sight of the goal. It also ensures that there are no illusions about where you are at any moment regarding your progress in attaining the goal. Most importantly, you are likely to remain highly motivated to keep working at your goals if you remain accountable to yourself for their attainment.

As you can see, the four disciplines of execution (4DX) may just be what you need to hit peak performance as a person or as an organization. These disciplines point out what you need to do in a simple way, but make no mistake; implementing them will initially take some work until the steps become second nature to you. But, believe you me, the rewards you get when you use this process will be bigger than you have ever dreamed possible, so take the first step today!

To Your Success,

Jairek Robbins and Team PCU

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