4 ways to get excellent at execution


Clayton Christensen’s book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, is a must-read for those of us who struggle to get stuff done.

Here’s a summary:

Step 1: Focus on wildly important goals

“The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish.” Energy should be aimed at a small number of “wildly important goals.” This simplicity will help focus with sufficient intensity to ignite real results.

Think of it like burning ants with a magnifying glass. It only works if you focus the beam on one ant at a time.

Step 2: Identify lag and lead measures

Once you’ve identified a wildly important goal, you need to measure your success. There are two metrics: lag measures and lead measures.

Lag measures describe the thing you’re ultimately trying to improve. Ie: if your goal is to increase customer satisfaction, then the lag measure is your customer satisfaction score.

The problem with lag measures is that they come too late to change your behavior: “When you receive them, the performance that drove them is already in the past.”

The harder metric to identify is your lead measure. What is the work that takes you closer to your wildly important goal? Ie: If you’re writing a book, then the key input is usually “uninterrupted writing hours”. If you track this metric you’ll find the end result takes care of itself.

Step 3: Keep a scoreboard

“People play differently when they’re keeping score.”

Have a public place to record and track your lead measures. This scoreboard creates a sense of competition that drives you to focus on the right work, even when other demands vie for your attention.

It also provides a reinforcing source of motivation. Once you notice success with a lead measure, you become invested in perpetuating this performance.

Step 4: Create a cadence

Spend a few minutes every week reassessing your goals, your measures and your scoreboard. Commit to specific actions to help improve the score.

Create a cadence of reflection and feedback.

Hold yourself accountable every week.