I remember a dinner with Tomek Kaczanowski where he asked me: “Mariusz, did you visualize what you want to achieve in this project? What is your goal? Where are you? Does your team understand the goal in the same way as you?” He caught me off guard with these questions. I didn't know what to say so we started looking into these problems together. Why am I writing about it? Because almost two years after our discussion, we came back to 4DX - a method Tomek recommended. We have been using 4DX since March 2021. Let’s find out what this is for.
A quick introduction to 4DX
4DX is a strategy execution framework that defines four key principles:
- Focus on a wildly important goal
- Define LAG/LEAD Measures
- Create Scoreboard(s)
- Practice wildly important goals sessions
Focusing on wildly important goals is my favorite principle. It helps to define what is essential for you and your company. You can choose only up to two goals. It requires getting rid of activities that are not related to these goals. Thanks to this principle, you will be able to focus on essential matters.
LAG Measure - it can be your big goal. Something that you want to achieve with your Team, but it’s tough to measure itself. It can be “Increase revenue from 1 mln EUR to 2 mln EUR at the end of the year”, etc. Defining a LAG measure is not so complicated if you use the formula “from X to why by when.”
A much more complicated thing for me is to define the LEAD measure. We can still use this formula above, but we need to figure out if this measure will help us improve the LAG scoreboard.
Based on the LAG example above, we can define LEAD measures like: “Increase our monthly revenue from 250k EUR to 500k EUR”. This LEAD measure can have another one, e.g., “Increase sales calls from two to four per day”.
As I mentioned, creating LEAD measures is not so easy:
- We need to turn the problem into numbers.
- We need to set a deadline.
- It should be predictable and influenceable.
Ok, let’s assume that we have our LAG(s) and LEAD(s) measure(s). The next step is to create a scoreboard. In my experience, only your imagination is a limitation. Based on the dozen or so scoreboards that I have made, I can summarize that 90% of scoreboards fill out the date and value of measurement.
Scoreboards are easy when you have defined LAG/LEAD measures. So it’s essential to start by defining goals.
WIG Session (Wildly important goal session) is the meeting when the Team is updating numbers together. This meeting shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes.
To summarize, 4DX is not so hard to understand. Each attempt to implement 4DX brings you closer to achieve your objectives.
In the middle of March 2021, I asked our business developers what is vital for the company in 1Q/2021. They could write max two goals. When we have finished, everyone has a different idea. Including me. For instance:
To hire five developers
- To complete a company’s website
- To hire Marketing Manager
- To implement ATS tools
- To deliver all of the opened projects
“Can we try to rephrase your goal based on the: from X to Y by when formula?” I asked. This is what happened:
- To hire five developers => To Increase the development team from 15 to 20 people until the end of the April
- To finish a company’s website => To finish five pages that are still not ready by 31/03/2021
- To hire Marketing Manager => To hire Marketing Manager by the end of the April
- To implement ATS tools => To fill out 25 CV’s which are on hr@bravelab to the new ATS by the end of the March
- To deliver all of the opened projects => To issue invoices for projects A, B, C by the end of the March
Looks better? Of course. Wait. Something is missing. Do these goals are predictable and influenceable? Do these goals align with our strategy for this year? Why do we want to hire five developers? Why do we want to implement ATS tools? What is our “wildly” important goal?
It quickly turned out that the aim “To deliver projects A, B, C by the end of March” could be crucial. On top of that, we noticed that we had a few unpaid client’s invoices. Then we wrote down a new goal:
To decrease unpaid invoices from 80k to 0k by the end of March 2021
Finally! We’ve got it. Two wildly important goals:
- To issue invoices for all contracted projects by the end of March 2021
- To decrease unpaid invoices from 84k to 0 by the end of March 2021
We still didn’t have LEAD measures. So we decided to use projects' spreadsheets where we have income/expenses financial data. At this point, we were able to focus on these projects where we had some issues with delivery. Everything else was put on hold.
The next step was to create the scoreboards. We didn’t find an appropriate online app, we decided to use google spreadsheets. See the image below how we measured unpaid invoices:
In the meantime, we added a threshold for our goal. It’s hard to achieve 100% of your assumptions. In this objective, 85% was enough to feel that we won this game. As you can see, nothing complicated happened and you are able to fill out your measurements and visualize the objective state.
What has worked
- We defined two wildly important goals (it required 3 hours of meetings)
- We established WIG sessions every Monday at 1 p.m
- Our scoreboard was updated with accurate data
- We were focused mainly on these two goals. It was easy to hold on to unnecessary ideas
What has not worked
WIG Sessions required more than 30 minutes. Sometimes up to 1h
- People who will be using 4DX should learn the basics of this method before we start
- Everyone has to be prepared before the WIG Session (everyone needs to know their current measurements. It's important to put them out on the scoreboard together)
- LEAD measures didn’t work. Not everyone was able to define what he needs to do to bring our efforts closer to our LAG measure.
What can help me to understand 4DX
- First: The Four Disciplines of Execution book
- If you have heard about OKRs, you will see some common things. If you want to know more, there is a good comparison article https://www.perdoo.com/resources/okr-vs-4dx/.
- One of my favorite books about focusing on what matters: https://www.amazon.com/Essentialism-Disciplined-Pursuit-Greg-McKeown/dp/0804137382
- If you want to see how it works, I prepared an example scoreboard for you. Feel free to use this spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Btvv4JVujR3UaEI4saled00JjsqCUCdp_n--mRHSMNQ/edit#gid=631824341.
- We’re working on some Proof of Concept online app. If you want to join our beta testers group (for free forever), please contact me via LinkedIn.
- Read more about 4DX in practice http://tomek.kaczanowscy.pl/2019/06/4dx-implementation/
- If you want to start with 4DX, this article is a good point to start https://www.franklincovey.com/solutions/execution/4-disciplines/.
PS: Remember. 4DX is about execution. Almost everything in this method boils down to work on habits in your company. I wish you the best of luck in implementing 4DX! :)
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