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The Four Disciplines of Execution Simply Understood for Ministry Leaders: Part 1 of 3

The 4 Disciplines of Execution, also known as 4DX®, was written by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling, Scott Thele, and Beverly Walker for teams and leaders all around the world in business, government, education, and even ministry! I know, I know! This already sounds a little nerdy and not very ministry related but stay with me and let me show you how 4DX® can make your ministry efforts explode, taking you and your leadership team to new levels!



4DX® is a proven set of practices that represents a new way of thinking essential to thrive in today’s competitive climate. This is a method we use at Unite Leadership, and many other church leaders implement it as well to improve their ministry execution. Over this three-part blog series, we are going to break down each of the disciplines, the non-negotiable rules for each discipline, and how you can practically apply each discipline to see your ministry efforts boom!


What does winning look like?


Let’s begin with What does “winning” look like in your ministry? Regardless of what ministry context you are in, you, your leaders, and your serve team members are in it to win it! This is what we refer to as the “Epic Win.” It’s a win so epic you might not think it’s possible until you achieve it! But “Epic Wins” don’t come without an investment of time and effort. You have to start first with smaller, wildly important goals, or WIGs.


WIG = Wildly Important Goal


Now, before we jump into your WIG and the other disciplines of execution, let’s understand the WHIRLWIND. The whirlwind includes all the urgent activities that are necessary to get your job done to meet ministry needs unrelated to your wildly important goal. These tasks are necessary and need to be completed; however, they are clearly different. More importantly, they compete relentlessly for time and attention. If you are operating only within the whirlwind, you will not see any progress toward your Epic Win. The 4 Disciplines of Execution are the rules for executing your most critical strategies in the midst of the Whirlwind.



DISCIPLINE 1: FOCUS ON THE WIG (Wildly Important Goal)


Being busy is not the same as being productive. When you are hyper-focused on the urgent rather than the important, you will be busy all the time but with minimal results to show for it.

Most poorly run organizations have plenty of busy workers reacting to the everyday urgent activities, or the whirlwind.


But when you and your team have identified the wildly important goals that will help move the ministry forward, you find that YOU are acting on the goal rather than reacting to the circumstances around your whirlwind.


When determining your WIG, don’t just ask, “What’s important?” Because everything can fall under that category. Instead, begin by asking, “If every other area of our ministry remained exactly as it is, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?”


Your objective is to not only achieve that WIG but to make it a part of your natural ministry’s operation. Each time a WIG is achieved, it goes back into the whirlwind, making it a much higher-performing whirlwind. Ultimately, this is what enables your team to pursue the next WIG from a stronger foundation.


Your biggest struggle with identifying your WIG will be having to say “no” to a lot of good and even great ideas, at least for the time being. There are four guiding rules for focusing on your WIGs.


Rule One: Ministry teams focus on no more than two WIGs at the same time.


This rule will help your teams focus their best efforts on one or maybe two goals, rather than delivering mediocre efforts on half a dozen goals. Rule one is about applying more energy against fewer goals, because when it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity. (See page 29 from Fourteen Fridays if you need a refresher on that concept!)


Rule Two: The battles you choose must win the war.


Once the top-level WIG is chosen, the next question is critical. Asking “What are all the things we could do to win this war or achieve this desired outcome?” will only result in a long to-do list. Instead, ask “What are the fewest number of battles necessary to win this war?”


The sole purpose of WIGs at lower levels of your ministry is to help achieve the WIGs at higher levels. The lower-level WIGs must ensure the success of the top-level WIG. This leads us to rule three.



Rule Three: Senior leaders can veto but not dictate ministry teams’ WIG.


While the senior leaders will undoubtedly determine the top-level WIG, they must allow the ministry leaders at each level below to define their WIGs for their teams. By allowing them to define their own WIG, they become more engaged in a goal they choose that ultimately supports the overall church ministries WIG. Senior leaders then exercise their right to veto if the battles chosen are not going to win the war.


Through this process, the senior leaders’ choice of the overall WIG brings clarity. Allowing the leaders and teams below to choose their WIGs brings engagement.


Rule Four: All WIGs must have a finish line.


All WIGs should identify where you currently are, where you want to be and by when.


Examples of bad WIGS would be:

  • Increase giving.

  • Get healthy.

  • Increase attendance.


An example of a good WIG looks like:

  • Increase giving from $10,000 to $12,000 in 6 months.

  • Lose five pounds in eight weeks.

  • Increase first-time worshiping guests from 50 to 100 over the next 12 months.


Do you see how those examples clearly identify where you currently are, where you want to be, and by when? How can you reframe your current goals to be a better example of a "good WIG"? We'd love to hear your WIGS ideas and suggestions below! Joing the conversation and stay with us over the coming weeks as we break down the next several disciplines that you, as a ministry leader, should know to help you effectively impact your ministry efforts.


Let the ULC know if we can serve you in any way to build a leadership development culture. Our next year-long Accelerator starts in August. We would love to have your church’s leadership team join us!

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