How to achieve a goal
Very often when it comes to how to achieve a goal, the problem is not so much “knowing what to do”.
On an individual level, to lose weight or start a business, it is enough to control your calories and do sports, and to offer a service and find customers. For a business, it can be to improve margins or customer satisfaction. In any case, we often have a fairly clear idea of what we should do.
The main problem appears at the moment of execution: we don’t know how to do it. Faced with the multitude of requests, the thousand daily concerns, we disperse without being able to advance towards our objectives.
In this case, all we need is a proven system that allows us to move from theory to practice.
To achieve certain results, we have two main levers: the definition of the strategy, and the ability to execute that strategy. Very often this second aspect (execution) is much more difficult than the first (planning).
The 4 disciplines of execution are a system focused on the implementation of the plan. And the benefits go far beyond the ability to achieve its objectives. These disciplines help develop a win-win mentality, reinforce the culture of excellence and ensure long-term mobilization.
If we want to achieve results we’ve never achieved before, we have to do things we’ve never done before. Very often, new goals require changing a behavior.
If changing one’s own habits is already a challenge in itself, it is even more difficult when we also have to change the habits of others!
The main obstacle to the implementation of a strategy is represented by all our daily occupations and preoccupations. This is what we call the whirlwind. These are the chores and urgent things we have to do, while our goals are what is important.
And when the urgent and the important are in conflict, don’t have any doubts: it is the urgent that wins every time!
In order to execute successfully, it is therefore essential to recognize the existence and even the necessity of the whirlwind: it will always absorb a minimum of 80% of our time, energy and attention.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution are rules that allow us to reach objectives in the midst of the whirlwind. Here they are in detail:
How to achieve a goal: Focus on the extremely important
The key to getting results starts by focusing on one or two goals that will really make a difference. Most individuals, like companies, pursue a multitude of goals at once. They have a dozen or so priorities!
They think that in order to get there, they just have to reduce or better control the whirlwind, which is just an illusion. Result: daily life inexorably takes over again, and the efforts scattered over a multitude of priorities mean that there is no significant progress on any one of them.
The only way to really make a difference is to focus on the extremely important, which is to reduce the number of goals you are trying to achieve over the whirlwind.
At some point, you must have one or two goals at most.
Consciously choosing to drop some goals is clearly not easy. If you are used to setting ambitious goals, you probably tend to want to do more, not less. It also means accepting the risk of making a mistake and, at least for a while, pursuing the wrong goal.
It also means having to say no to many excellent ideas, if they do not contribute to the main objective. But we must accept that there will always be more good ideas than execution capacity.
Learning to choose, and to give up, is therefore fundamental. How can you identify these one or two primary objectives? If you ask yourself the question: “Which one is more important? “you will go round and round in circles.
The right question to ask is: “If all areas of my life (or my business) remain at their current level, in which of these areas would a change have the greatest impact? ».
The objectives should be expressed as precisely as possible: the finish line should be clear, as well as the target date for reaching it. When you go from a dozen or so vague hopes to one or two perfectly defined objectives, the effect on motivation is dramatic.
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How to achieve a goal: Acting on predictive indicators
Once the extremely important goal has been chosen, it seems natural to start writing a detailed plan with all the tasks and subtasks needed to achieve it, and the associated timeline. But this approach is not the right one: it is too rigid to adapt to the constraints of the daily whirlwind, but also to know how to pick up the opportunities that arise along the way.
The second discipline is to identify the activities that will bring you closest to your goals, and the right indicators that allow you to track those activities. And it is not a matter of listing all the possible actions: on the contrary, you should try to choose the minimum number that gives you a good chance of getting there.
Your list should be limited to a maximum of 2 or 3 activities.
When choosing indicators, we often focus on outcome indicators, i.e., the measure of the result you are trying to achieve.
For example, if we want to lose weight, it is how much we weigh, and for a business, the turnover.
While these indicators are useful to know where we stand in relation to our objectives, they do not help us in our daily execution. Indeed, we may have the impression that our day-to-day actions have no effect on these indicators, and that their measurement comes too late to be able to react and adjust our actions.
Two fundamental characteristics to predict results
In order to facilitate execution, we must choose predictive indicators, which do not measure the result, but predict it.
These indicators have 2 fundamental characteristics:
They are predictable: i.e. if the predictive indicator changes, then sooner or later the outcome indicator will also change.
They can be influenced: you have a direct hand on them, your daily actions have a visible and immediate effect on these indicators.
For example, for weight loss, two predictive indicators are: the number of calories you eat each day, and how many times a week you exercise.
You cannot directly affect your weight (the outcome indicator), but you have full control over the calories you eat and the time you spend exercising (the predictive indicators).
And if you control these two indicators long enough, the outcome indicator (your weight) is bound to move.
By experience, this second discipline is the most difficult. So take the time to choose the 2/3 most effective activities in relation to your goal, and to find the right predictive indicator to track them.
And don’t hesitate to do 2/3 iterations at the beginning of a new objective to improve your initial choices.
How to achieve a goal: Create a powerful dashboard
At this point, it is time to ensure the commitment of all participants to the goal. As for a sports team, it is essential to have a dashboard that allows us to know if we are winning or not.
There is a huge difference in performance between a team that understands in theory its outcome and predictive indicators and a team that knows at all times what its score is.
This is where the third discipline comes into play: that of creating a powerful dashboard. This dashboard is designed to encourage you to pursue your actions and stay motivated over time.
The graphical formatting must be so simple that anyone looking at the chart must be able to tell if they are well oriented towards the final goal. It must be clearly visible, to constantly fuel the desire to win, and the sense of responsibility.
It must show both predictive and outcome indicators. This makes it easy to see the level of performance of what one is doing, as well as the effect achieved.
And to know whether we are winning or losing, we need two things: where we are right now, and where we should be.
To remain effective, the chart must be updated regularly, at least once a week.
The most demoralizing thing about the whirlwind is that you never feel like you can win. At best, our efforts allow us not to lose. Thanks to the dashboard, we get clear feedback that our actions are really moving us forward! If we persevere with the right actions, we have every chance of winning the game!
How to achieve a goal: Creating a pace of accountability
The fourth discipline allows us to observe past results, analyze them, and plan future actions accordingly. Taking a regular stock of the situation, at least once a week, is the only possible antidote to the tendency of the whirlwind to swallow up everything else.
If your objective is a collective one, this is the ideal time to bring the whole team together.
You don’t need much time: 20 to 30 minutes are enough to observe the results of the predictive indicators and take stock of the actions carried out the previous week, and choose the 2 or 3 actions to commit to for the coming week.
It is essential to hold this meeting regularly, preferably every week. If you skip it even once, you expose yourself to the enormous risk of being caught up forever by the whirlwind.
To facilitate this, the simplest way is to hold it on the same day and at the same time each week.
So start by looking at the previous week’s results: what are the results of the predictive indicators? What were the main difficulties you encountered? How can you reduce or eliminate them afterwards?
Were you able to carry out the 2 or 3 actions you had committed to the previous week? If so, were they as effective as you had hoped? If not, what prevented you from carrying them out?
Finally, identify the maximum 2 or 3 actions that you can do in the coming week that you think will have the greatest effect on the predictive indicators, taking into account the whirlwind of course. How can you get the maximum result with the minimum effort?
Once identified, make a commitment to carry out these actions within the week ahead of you.
That’s it; you’ve discovered the 4 disciplines of execution, a very effective system to move from wishful thinking to certainty and commitment on how to achieve a goal that will really make a difference in your life or business.
If you are interested in the subject of taking action, I strongly advise you to read the book. For me, it has been a real inspiration.
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The slight edge by Jeff Olson