I HAVE BEEN A LONG-TIME STUDENT of Stephen Covey’s philosophies since the mid-1990’s, when I was lucky enough to work for a company (RR Donnelley & Sons) which sent me off for “First Things First” training…
That said, I find myself struggling with one of FranklinCovey’s more recent productivity solutions – that program called “The 4 Disciplines of Execution”…
I can’t help but nurture the pet theory that this did NOT come from Stephen Covey himself; if you look at the entire solution as if it were a manuscript under literary analysis, you’d likely draw the following conclusions:
1. It does NOT describe what KIND of execution is intended; the Stephen Covey of “7 Habits” fame would have surely included what KIND of execution was desireable, by using a title like “The 4 Disciplines of Great Execution”. Oddly, this very term “great” actually appears over & over in both flash files & text in the FranklingCovey.com website, yet for some peculiar reason FC saw fit to NOT include this critical term in the title of the solution itself;
2. The mnemonics are in many regards quite counter-intuitive:
a. The key symbol is a circle made of 4 arrows moving clockwise, yet these are NOT the 4 disciplines;�
b. The 4 disciplines are visual MIS-ordered, appearing as 1,2,4,3 (the mind resists such input, I shit you not);
c. The large “action” type arrows representing disciplines 1,2 and 4 actually appear to be going RIGHT to LEFT; which again (I shit you not) is counter-intuitive to “progress” and hence are RESISTED by the common mind;�
d. The symbol as a whole is both unintuitive AND hard-to-draw, which is very UN-Stephen-Covey. Historically his mnemonics are incredibly intuitive & simple & natural, which I would argue is one of the reasons for his huge success.
3. His descriptions of each discipline are complex, esoteric & wordy – not authored with the understanding that his audience (read “his new disciples”) would potentially consist of THE ENTIRE WORLD. Terms like “cadence” (when the term “rhythm” would have be SO very natural & comprehensible), and “Lead Measure” (when mere mortals would immediately grasp the equivalent term “key tasks”) is just more evidence that Stephen himself neither conceived nor authored this content – it just doesn’t “read” like the Stephen Covey of (well-earned) legend…
4. Ultimately his 4 disciplines distill into the unlikely acronym “FAKC”… doesn’t quite roll luxuriously off the tongue, now does it?
So what can we DO about this situation? Are the 4 disciplines completely without merit because of these oversights?
I think not. Not by a long shot.
What’s needed is simply a bit of remodelling, so that the concepts become self-evident, the terms become self-defining & natural, and the symbolism is easily drawn, and hence easily internalized…
So, here are Mark Vogt’s modest edits to a very powerful set of disciplines:
A. RENAME the 4 disciplines as follows:
1. FOCUS on the WIGs;
2. ACT on the Key Task;
3. CREATE a Rhythm;
4. TRACK to a ScoreBoard.
B. A diabolically simple (but powerful) symbol for The 4 Disciplines: