OKRs and 4DX

Almost everyone knows the euphoric feeling that sometimes comes over you when defining new goals, be it on a professional or private level. During the development of goals, one imagines the future as it should be and then sets about implementing the goals with high motivation. However, often the phase of consistent implementation lasts only a short time. The initial euphoria disappears and the efforts to achieve the goal diminish and eventually often cease altogether.

The following article introduces the 4DX framework, a technique that aims to prevent most goals from remaining mere wishful thinking, especially in an entrepreneurial context, and shows how OKRs can be combined with this technique.

What is 4DX?

The 4DX framework, an abbreviation of the term "4 Disciplines of Execution", was developed by Sean Covey, Jim Huling and Chris McChesney in their book of the same name. According to the authors, there are four disciplines in particular (in this case, habits) that help leaders achieve their goals.

In the following video, Chris McChesney, one of the co-authors of the book, presents a simplified version of the concept: 

Implementing 4DX principles through OKRs

As in the case of other frameworks (see OKRs and KPIs, OKRs and SMART Goals), OKRs can be perfectly combined with the 4DX framework as the principles and values of 4DX correspond in many ways to the OKR method. OKRs can thus help to consistently implement each component of the 4DX approach.

Discipline 1 - Focus on the wildly important

Focus on the wildly important

This discipline requires a focus on what matters most, based on the recognition that defining too many goals often results in either none or few of those goals actually being achieved. Pursuing too many goals at once simply robs you of the concentration and focus needed to achieve them. That's why leaders must always be clear about their most important goals and learn to consistently degrade goals that go beyond them. For executives and entrepreneurs, this habit can take a lot of discipline.

OKRs help limit the number of goals (objectives). Normally, OKRs try to define 3 to a maximum of 5 objectives. By ensuring that only ambitious and inspiring goals make for good Objectives, it also ensures that employees focus on the most meaningful goals.

Discipline 2 - Act on the lead measure

Act on the lead measure

This discipline states that in order to achieve goals, it is especially important not to focus on Lag Measures, an abstract end goal such as KPIs. On the contrary, most of one's attention should be focused on the concrete actions and steps that make the actions to achieve the goal measurable and possible, namely Lead Measures.

The philosophy of focusing on the Lead Measure is at the core of the OKR approach. This is because OKRs do not focus on an abstract metric, but rather divide goal setting into a qualitative, inspirational goal (Objectives) and the actions achievable to measure that goal (Key Results).

Discipline 3 - Create a compelling Scoreboard

Create a compelling scoreboard

As a leader, in order to ensure that you are working with the team in a continuous and focused manner toward goal achievement, it is important to keep good track of the status of goal achievement. As the 4DX book states, this can be achieved by having a good scoreboard for the whole team. Above all, the scoreboard must be easy for the team to understand, visible at all times, and contain both lead and lag goals. Most importantly, the scoreboard must immediately show employees if they are on track in achieving their goal.

Like 4DX, creating an engaging scoreboard is fundamental to the successful application of OKRs. That said, there are already many scoreboards at the OKR level that visualize the 4DX criteria: simplicity, visibility, and immediately interpretable representation of goal achievement status.

For instance, the Workpath platform offers numerous visualization options and overviews for this purpose. To experiment with OKRs in smaller teams, our sample template is a good place to start.

Discipline 4 - Create a cadence of accountability

Create a cadence of accountability

This discipline notes that for success, not only initial commitment but also taking responsibility for achieving goals are important. According to the 4DX, accountability can be implemented primarily in the context of weekly meetings in which the defined goals of the previous week are revisited, the status of goal achievement is updated, and new goals are defined based on the current status.

OKRs understand the assumption of responsibility as a critical success factor for goal achievement. In this regard, OKRs go even further than 4DX. Not only do they include the weekly meeting routine recommended by 4DX, but when used correctly, they also ensure that each goal is transparently assigned to a responsible person.

Conclusion

The 4DX framework provides managers and employees with four intuitive and valuable disciplines as advice for better goal achievement. However, as the name implies, implementing this advice requires a high level of discipline and a willingness to make a difference. OKRs can help implement each of the four disciplines and anchor them in the company's daily routine.

FAQ

What are the four disciplines of 4DX?

The 4DX framework, short for "4 Disciplines of Execution", is a goal achievement methodology developed by Sean Covey, Jim Huling and Chris McChesney. It involves users learning and practicing four disciplines:

  1. Focus on the wildly important
  2. Act on the lead measure
  3. Create a compelling Scoreboard
  4. Create a cadence of accountability

Why is 4DX useful?

4DX helps leaders achieve their goals and focus on what matters most. By setting concrete actions and constantly monitoring them, the framework is combined with daily work. This creates a process that supports companies on their way to success on multiple levels.

What is a good 4DX commitment?

The commitment must be short enough to be completed within the following week. If a multi-week commitment is required, commit only to the parts that can be completed in the next week. These weekly phases are very important because they create priorities that do not get lost in the day-to-day business.


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