4DX, also known as The 4 Disciplines of Execution, is a goal-setting and execution methodology introduced by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling. It provides a framework to help individuals and teams achieve their most important goals. The 4 steps were designed primarily for organisational goals and used in the workplace to create change. When I was reading the book for work, I began thinking about how it could be applied to personal goals.
The main principles of 4DX and how to apply them to your personal goals
1. Focus on the Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)
First, you need to identify your most important goal (or goals, but it’s much easier to start with 1!)
This goal could involve one or two objectives that have significant impact and align with your long-term vision. The day to day we get caught up in is referred to as the Whirlwind within this method, and focusing on a seemingly wild goal outside of that is the key to making real change.
You should be able to break up the process. For example, if you want to run a marathon or write a book, you can break this down into smaller training or writing sessions.
Once you have your goal, you create the WIG with a timeframe to keep you accountable.
- Goal: Write a book. WIG: Complete the first draft of a 70,000-word novel within one year.
- Goal: Improve physical fitness. WIG: Run a half-marathon within six months.
- Goal: Lose weight. WIG: Lose 1 stone within 2 months.
Going forward I will use the example of writing a novel for each step.
2. Act on Lead Measures
In 4DX, lead measures refer to the specific actions or behaviours that directly influence the achievement of the goals. These measures are within your control and can be tracked to gauge progress. For personal goals, identify the key actions or habits that contribute to the desired outcome. By consistently working on these lead measures, you increase your chances of success.
Lead Measures for the goal of writing a novel:
- Write for a dedicated amount of time each day (e.g., 1 hour).
- Set a specific word count target for each writing session (e.g., 500 words).
- Establish a routine and stick to a consistent writing schedule.
You can do one or all of these.
3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
The third principle emphasises the importance of tracking progress visually. Compelling is the operative word here. In 4DX, teams use scoreboards to make their progress visible and promote accountability. For personal goals, create a simple and visual way to track your progress. This could be a habit tracker, a spreadsheet, or a journal. The scoreboard serves as a reminder and motivator, keeping you engaged and focused on your objectives.
You can use a physical or digital scoreboard, depending on which will work best for you. Designing a scoreboard can be part of the fun and make you want to maintain the momentum.
Example Scoreboards for writing a novel:
- Use a word count tracker app or spreadsheet to record your daily and cumulative word count.
- Maintain a calendar or habit tracker where you mark off the days you meet your writing targets.
4. Create a Cadence of Accountability
Regular check-ins and accountability help teams to stay on track. In the workplace, teams hold frequent meetings to review progress and make adjustments. For personal goals, establish a cadence of accountability that works for you. This could involve weekly or monthly reflections, where you assess your progress, identify challenges, and make any necessary course corrections. You could also consider finding an accountability partner or joining a supportive community to enhance your commitment and motivation.
Examples for novel writing:
- Weekly check ins to review progress and any adaptations required.
- Monthly milestones – don’t forget to celebrate each one!
Using the 4DX method practically
I have personally used this within the workplace to get things done that may otherwise have been overlooked by remaining in the Whirlwind. By applying the principles of 4DX to personal goals, you can enhance your focus, increase accountability, and improve your chances of achieving desired outcomes.
Adapt the methodology to your individual needs and preferences, and be flexible in making necessary adjustments along the way. Goals and lifestyles change and that’s okay.
Celebrate your wins!
Each goal, and even milestone, should be celebrated! Reward yourself with your favourite meal, or a new tool towards your goal, such as gym kit or fancy pen. It can feel restrictive when you get organised about achieving your goals, so make sure your goal-getting is fun to keep up the momentum to succeed.
Want to read the book for yourself?
The book has some great anecdotes and examples about how this has been used, and is a good book in general for those interested in workplace culture or personal development.
Work in leadership? This is a great team read before application in the workplace. I will warn, like any management book, it can feel a little slow at first, but we turned it into a 4DX goal to complete the book which made it much easier.