Taking a strategy from concept to reality requires organizational alignment behind a particular goal—and requires management to take some counterintuitive steps, says Jeffery Downs, regional practice leader for FranklinCovey.
The “Four Disciplines of Execution” creates “a framework to focus a lot of people in the same direction, get them to work together in a transformative way, and make a significant impact,” says Downs, a longtime credit union member.
Downs presented those four disciplines to CUNA CEO Council Conference attendees, for use in enacting strategies that require behavioral change within your credit union, rather than unilateral action by management or the board.
He emphasized that generating results requires applying all four concepts, and that “while you’re going to underwhelmed by their titles, actually getting them done is hard.”
Discipline 1: Focus on the wildly important. To achieve excellence, you must focus on just 2-3 goals, Downs says. Any more than that, and your success rate doesn’t get better, it gets worse. “You have to say no to good and great ideas,” Downs says. Advancing too many ideas too quickly dilutes the priority of each, penalizing high performers for hopping on board of ideas that eventually fizzle.
Providing definition of goals is key, too. For example, President John F. Kennedy specified a focus and a finish line in his space race challenge: Pledging to put a man on the moon and return safely by the end of the 1960s. “What is your moonshot?” Downs asks. “Declare a desire to win.”
Discipline 2: Act on the lead measures, which can be influenced and predicted—such as improving your diet and exercising to get in shape, whereas lag measures such as weighing yourself provide immediate feedback but don’t create results. “Teams must develop and deliver on these lead measures," Downs says.
One convenience store increased sales and reduced theft simply by greeting customers as they entered the store. A shoe store wanted to sell more kids shoes, and sparked purchases by routinely measuring kids’ feet.
Discipline 3: Keep a compelling scoreboard, which engenders competitiveness in achieving the goal. The trick is, the scoreboard is for the players, not the coach. “If I have to tell players on the field the score, we’ve lost the game already,” Downs says.
Discipline 4: Create a cadence of accountability. Convene regularly to assess progress toward goals, reviewing the previous week’s commitments and making commitments for the following week. But management doesn’t assign the important tasks—employees do.
“It’s a commitment, not an assignment—they need to own it,” Downs says. “Horizontal accountability, from team member to team member, is more powerful than vertical accountability.”
The side benefit is that employees make time amid the whirlwind of their day-to-day responsibilities to focus on these exciting challenges, which proves reinvigorating, Downs notes.
“These commitments start to drive this process,” he says.
For more from Downs, listen to his interview with the CUNA News Podcast.
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