Today we’ll be delving into a business productivity system called the 4 DISCIPLINES OF EXECUTION aka the 4DX which I believe will be applicable to the world of creatives like film pros.
I won’t make this too long an episode as the system is fairly quick to follow but before I go onto it let’s look back at last week’s episode and which talked about Protecting Your Mental Energy.
Mental energy you see is over and above time and money and skills and everything else, IS YOUR MOST FINITE AND VALUABLE ASSET. When you’re mental energy is depleted you are less able to be effective and just one side effect of this is that you can be easily manipulated. Have a listen if you missed it and get protecting your own MENTAL ENERGY. You can thank me later.
In the words of that famous philosopher, LL Cool J, Stay focused - go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.
I’ve talked a lot in the show about how focus is important if you want to get things done, and to get things done you really need a strategy, and if you have a strategy it must be designed to work towards your goals.
Today I’m going to discuss how to execute on the strategies which will lead to you achieving your goals. The difficulty we face once a strategy is decided you see is EXECUTION OF THAT STRATEGY or the delivery if you don’t quite follow, your strategy.
I am just about a third of the way through researching, writing and recording this season and I have a plan to get it all done, but it’s a tight and driven schedule of work and life gets in the way really every day. Today I’m slipping as I’m recording this right at the last possible minute. Nothing catastrophic will happen tomorrow but if I continue to miss the scheduled process goals for my main goal, roughly an episode every 4 days then by the time I hit my target date, I’ll be behind by at least a couple of episodes. Now I can pick them up after and the audience won’t really know if I am clever about that, but I have another series of new goals which land on the 1st of March, so if I miss my season 2 launch date it will bang into those goals and they will be put back. If I’m not careful my focus will change from aiming for success to just ensuring that I don’t fail which is a different matter.
There are lots of things messing me up today. Last night I got an unexpected email about the second Dead End film and had to give up time then and again this morning to deal with it and I didn’t sleep well as it was involved. My car is off the road and that’s slowing my schedule too. I’ve scripts to read and communications to make and hoovering and shopping and life, in general, to contend with and come the 11th February I’ll be back shooting at the BBC so my time will shrink even further. In reality, I need to record as many episodes as I can before that date, which at time of recording is just 19 days away, so really one every three days and these things take time – in effect I’ve so much going on that I’m suffocating and my ability to take action is diminishing. My time and energy is getting sucked away.
That situation that struggle of life and work and other things, disconnected from my main goal - is described in the Sean Covey, Chris McChesney and Jim Huling book THE FOUR DISCIPLINES OF EXECUTION which calls it THE WHIRLWIND.
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When putting together the book they surveyed over 200,000 leaders around the world to find out why they struggle to execute - the answers varied, but the authors realized all their answers had one thing in common. The main reason leaders and teams routinely fail to execute promising strategies and important team goals are because they spend all their energy dealing with the whirlwind.
The FOUR DISCIPLINES OF EXECUTION is a system which cuts through that whirlwind of everyday life etc and I’ll be referencing the book throughout today's show. As always I’ll link to it in the show notes with a full transcript.
The book says “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.” – unquote
And it goes on to say that “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."
I’ve found that every time I’ve let urgency trump importance, I’ve regretted it. – Trent Hamm
Coming back now to THE FOUR DISCIPLINES OF EXECUTION the writers of the book discovered through their interviews that executing a promising idea or important goal amid a raging whirlwind requires discipline.
It requires the discipline to deal with urgent items while remaining focused on what’s important. The sad truth is that this becomes a struggle which is almost always won by the Whirlwind, which dooms your strategy from the beginning.
Why is this? Well, according to the Four Disciplines of Execution methodology, it’s because even the boldest strategy for moving forward won’t have an impact unless you centre it around execution.
In the Whirlwind which is just all of the things, you need to do on a daily basis to keep things chugging along.
They need to get done, but they don’t actually move the needle on your strategy.
This leads to a struggle for attention.
On the one hand, you have this Whirlwind of daily activity that demands your attention.
And on the other, you have the high-priority responsibilities that will ensure your strategy is met.
The Four Disciplines are all about realizing this and putting in place the practices you need to make sure the most important work gets done first.
When combined, these four disciplines will allow you through determined action to achieve their goals on a regular basis.
So what are they? Well, I’m going to refer partly to a summary produced by www.ProductivityGame.com here and combine it in with some more info.
Jim Huling says that “Execution starts with focus.” and Jim Rohn said “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”
Discipline #1 is THE DISCIPLINE OF FOCUS. The first discipline requires sustaining the whirlwind at its current level while you advance towards what it calls one WILDLY IMPORTANT GOAL or WIG - W.I.G. A Wildly Important Goal, it actually says one or two but let’s keep it simple –remember the more you try to get done, the lower the odds of success of each of the goals you seek to achieve.
Extraordinary results can only be achieved when you are clear about what matters most. As simple as this principle may sound, few ever master it. To find your wildly important goal, DON’T ASK: “What’s most important?” If you ask that question, you’ll inevitably focus on the whirlwind because everything in the whirlwind seems important. Instead, ask yourself: “If everything else remained at its current level of performance, what one achievement would make everything else seem secondary?”
In other words, if you didn’t need to worry about anything else for the time being, what one goal would you focus on right now? Try using the Eisenhower matrix if you are having trouble.
And whatever that goal is you must be specific about it. The way they put it is that you must move from X to Y by (insert date here) So as an example again, my current goal is to Launch Season 2 – to get from where I am now as I record this on the 23rd January and get from the 4 episodes I have recorded already, to 12 episodes recorded by the 24th of February. I have a super clear goal.
The book says “Once you stop worrying about everything else going backwards, you can start moving forward on your WIG.” unquote
Discipline 2: MEASURE LEAD BEHAVIOURS. With unlimited time and resources, you could accomplish anything. Unfortunately, your challenge is usually the opposite. There are two measurements you can focus on while executing: LEAD BEHAVIOUR measurements and LAG RESULT MEASUREMENTS.
Lag result measurements are measurements of the results you want.
Lead behaviour measurements are measurements of the essential or critical day‐to‐day activities that lead to the results you want.
With this podcast, if I create more content (lead behaviour) I’ll get more people listening, and more subscribers. And that’s a (Lag Result)
In sales, for example, more sales calls (lead behaviour) lead to more sales (lag result).
If you‘re learning a new skill, say the functions of a new camera, then the more time spent studying it and using it (lead behaviour) leads to more confidence in working it and faster operation of it (lag result).
Measuring results can be frustrating though because it takes time for your actions to produce measurable results. That’s why they are called lag results. If you measure a value you can’t immediately improve, your willingness to execute will diminish. However, when you focus on a metric you can influence every day or every week, like a lead behaviour, you’ll sustain your level of execution. Seeing daily/weekly signs of
improvements will increase engagement and drive the execution of your WIG. Your WILDLY IMPORTANT GOAL.
Discipline 3: KEEP SCORE - Without a scoreboard, you or your team will lose track of your measurements, forget the score, and lose the will to win. Therefore, you need to create a scoreboard that includes your WIG (title), your lag measurements (line chart from left to right), and your lead measurements (bar chart below the lag measurements). I’ll post an example in the show notes.
If you’re improving the lead measurement, and that lead measurement is corresponding to improvements in the lag measurement, then you’re winning. It’s suggested you write this up somewhere it can be seen I’ll be trying it out on one of my many whiteboards.
The thing about keeping score is, well think about it in sporting terms. How much more engaged to fans and players get when their goals start to get scored. It really lights a fire to win.
So disciplines 1, 2 and 3 according to Franklin Covey are nothing more than creating a winnable game and discipline 4 is how we play that game.
Author Catherine Pulsifer said “at the end of the day we are accountable to ourselves - our success is a result of what we do.”
and Discipline 4 is the discipline of accountability. No matter how brilliant your plan or how important your goal, nothing will happen until you follow through with consistent action. 4DX brings the practices that drive accountability and follow through, despite a whirlwind of competing priorities.
The fourth discipline of execution requires setting up weekly accountability meetings with teammates or peers (not bosses or managers) but as a freelancer I suggest you put aside a session per week, I have half an hour on Friday afternoons in my diary, to assess how you are getting on, write up your progress and hold yourself accountable to stay on course. This is half an hour a week where you can also work on your life and career in a period where you are not living and working in it.
Holding regular weekly accountability sessions like this or with people at your level (called WIG sessions) ensures you stay in the game. When you set up reoccurring weekly meetings with teammates or like‐minded peers to discuss your efforts, you strengthen your commitment to execution.
During your WIG sessions (When working in teams these are usually 15‐minute weekly accountability meetings), do three things:
report on last week’s commitment, or write it up if you are an individual,review the score and describe or detail in writing the actions you took to advance your WIG, andCommit to a lead behaviour improvement or a specific deliverable for your next week.
The book says If you ignore the urgent, it can kill you today. It’s also true, however, that if you ignore the important, it can kill you tomorrow.
I hope that my potted version of the system has been of interest to you and I think it’s a really cool angle to approach getting things done. The book, of course, expands monumentally on the simple principles which I have highlighted here and as I said before, there will be a link to it in the show notes.
I’ll end with a quote from Paul J. Meyer who said that “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
CALL TO ACTION
Your call to action this week is to decide on a WIG or wildly important goal and figure out your X to Y by a specific date. If you are uncertain of your WIG then see if you can cut through that whirlwind of life and work and whatever you have on by applying the Eisenhower matrix to it. Move forward with your strategy towards your WIG and execute using the 4 principles I have detailed here.
Next week I’ll be talking about a subject which I am sure will hit a mark with most creatives. It’s a long episode but you’re going to get a lot out of it. The topic will be Bad Collaborations, or Collabo-Haters as I have coined them.
Until then please take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on Film Pro Productivity.
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