The big idea and key points from 4 Disciplines of Execution

The 4 Disciplines of Execution is one of the most influential books on modern strategic management.

It’s full of remarkable examples and research-based insights because the authors committed to completing 1500 implementations of the 4DX operating system before writing the book.

The most eye opening insights for me was the initial research that led to the creation of 4DX.

The authors explain that:

“In our initial survey, we learned that only employee in seven (15%) could name even one of their organisation’s most important goals.”


And it gets worse:

The remaining 85% incorrectly named what they thought was the goal. And 87% had no clear idea what they should be doing to achieve that goal.

Sure the book was first published almost 10 years ago, but how much do you think has really changed? Not much.

Big idea

Creating significant performance improvements inevitably requires leaders to convince people to change their behaviour. This is why most strategies get killed before they get off the ground.

And initiatives that require behaviour change always get bogged down by our daily responsibilities.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution is an organisational operating system. Applying its principles can help you get your most important work done while dealing with your whirlwind of daily responsibilities.

Key points

  1. Focus on Wildly Important Goals (WIG): By narrowing your focus to 2 – 3 goals, you will (and your team) distinguish between what’s essential and what’s a whirlwind. Having 7 – 8 priorities means you have no priorities.
  2. Act on Lead Measures: Pick out the activities that have the highest impact on reaching your WIG. These are your lead measures. A lead measure must be predictable and influenceable.
  3. Keep a compelling scorecard: You’re more engaged when you’re keeping a score. A compelling scorecard keeps track of your Lead Measures and WIGs.
  4. Create a cadence of accountability: This is where execution happens. Unless you consistently hold yourself and your team accountable, your goal will succumb to the whirlwind.

The big idea and key points from Deep Work

I can honestly say that reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work has been a life-changing experience for me.

Big idea

Cal Newport explains that:

“ The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

Deep Work is a treasure trove of inspiring stories, strategies and advice on what Cal Newport called the core abilities for thriving in the New Economy, which include:

  1. The ability to quickly master hard things and,
  2. The ability to produce at an elite level in quality and speed.

Avoiding distractions and cultivating the ability focus are essential for both.

Key points

  1. Depending on your situation in life or the requirements of your job, you need to build a habit that allows you to focus without any distractions.
  2. Keep track of your learning progress and growth. This is essential for maintaining your habit and motivation for doing deep work.
  3. The secret to getting better at avoiding distractions is allowing yourself to get bored. Boredom and downtime are essential for processing complex ideas.
  4. Quit excessive use of social media. The book includes several strategies for managing your use of social media in case you don’t want to quit cold turkey.
  5. Limit the amount of shallow work by scheduling more time for deep work. In many jobs, shallow work, e.g. answering emails, IMs, and attending meetings, often leaves no time to focus on deep work. The strategies shared in the book can help you take control of your time.