4 disciplines of execution (4DX)

The 4DX is structured approach for execution to achieve organization’s strategic goals. This post describes synergy of 4DX with Agile product management.

The dilemma is that organizations are not short of ideas and strategy but they lack the capability of execution to achieve them. The 4DX uses the analogy whirlwind to describe the urgency and daily job which distract the organization from achieving its goals.

Discipline 1: Identify Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)

Organization goals are realized by completing product goals. The product goal can serve to remove a business barrier or attain a new benefit. For example, automating a business process will help remove the barrier to provide faster service. This is aligned with organization goals of adding X% clients this year. Agile teams must have goals which should be same as product goals.

Discipline 2: Identify Lead Measures

The product (team) goals are decomposed into Lead Measures, which are for me are the product features. The product feature progress is predictive to how the team will achieve its goals. This is in contrast with Lag Measures which serves to measure the WIG. Lead Measure (features) are what the team must work on and they’re the team means to achieve the WIGs.

Discipline 3: Establish a compelling score-board

In order to be compelling, the score-board should be:

  1. Simple
  2. Highly visible
  3. show both feature progress and progress towards the WIGs
  4. Can tell immediately whether you’re wining or losing

Discipline 4: Establish cadence of accountability

Team meets at short intervals and at same time for same duration where each member reports what each will do towards the lead measures. Each member reports on the status of his past commitment and the what she will do till the team meets next.

As product manager, I use discipline 1 to come up with the product quantitative goals and I use them to establish the team goals. The team understanding of its goals (WIGs) is a key for its alignment to the organization goals and to become engaged in a shared vision.

Discipline 2 is where I am challenged to arrive on collaboration with the team on the minimal features which allow the team to advance towards its WIGs.

Discipline 3 provides transparent environment and shared understand on whether we as team are winning or losing.

Discipline 4 establishes inter-accountability among team members in term of commitments to be made to progress towards completing the product features.

6 thoughts on “4 disciplines of execution (4DX)

  1. Nice capture Sameh!!! We have worked with a lot of project managers and software developers who use agile and have made some of the same connections you point out here. Making committments and thinking in weekly “chunks” is not easy at first, but very helpful for good accountability.
    – Chris McChesney

  2. Hi Chris,

    The point is that the product development team should have goals derived (if not the same as) product goals, this is step1. A goal should have time element and improvement from X (current state) to Y (desired state). The team collaborates with the product owner to identify features which allow the to team realize the goals. The progress of these features is measurable from one iteration to another and they measure the degree of attaining the parent goal. Having the team arriving at features is something unusual, even in Agile projects. The product owner tends to create the stories or use cases before facing the team. Also, there is general lack of appreciation of having product goals.

    Scrum is well aligned to implement the 4DX approach. Also, 4DX emphasizes on the WIGs (product goals) which I see them as useful for having shared vision of the team and business users.


  3. If you have organizational WIGs with supporting departmental WIGs, does the organizational WIG need lead measures or do only the departmental WIGs need lead measures?

    • Hi David,

      I am sorry that I can not answer this question because my focus is on product development.

      The idea of this post is that product goals and team goals are same and they are the same as product features. For me product features are the means to realize organizational goals (WIGs). WIGs are quantitative.

      In other words product features are the lead measures. In hindsight WIGs measure the competitiveness of our products. The product vision is the source of product goals (team goals). Meaning, achieving higher velocity is of no value if we cannot meet the product goals.

      Thank you for your comment.


  4. Question for Chris (or anyone) – 4DX is solid, common sense but I am struggling with this fundamental question;
    Have a clear lag (x to y by when) from corporate, in turn we picked a site level lag and have been struggling to get clear lead measures. Actually that’s not accurate, we have a bunch of lead measures, and I think that is the problem with each of those driving weekly commitments we have a mini whirlwind going on.
    Would we better to use the corporate WIG and convert our current site level wig to the lead measure for that Wig. Then ask our team to set weekly commitments to move that lead which we believe is both influenceable and predictive of moving the lag?

    Appreciate any guidance.


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