Making Change Stick: 4 Disciplines of Execution for Your Ministry

  • 14 October 2016
  • Randy Wollf

If you’re like me, you’ve seen many wonderful change initiatives start off strong only to be abandoned and forgotten after a few years. How can we implement change that lasts? In their book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, McChesney, Covey, and Huling describe a process that can help any organization make change stick over the long haul. We've implemented their 4-part strategy as a MinistryLift team and it has provided us with consistent traction toward our goals. Here's how it works:

Discipline #1 – Determine Your Wildly Important Goal(s) (WIGs)

“Don’t ask ‘What’s most important?’ Instead, begin by asking, ‘If every other area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?’”1 

With WIGs, less is more. If you have 2-3 goals, you are likely to achieve all of them. If you have 4-10 goals, you will likely achieve only 1-2 of these goals. With 11-20 goals, you will probably achieve none of them.

In MinistryLift (a ministry dedicated to providing non-formal training to churches), our WIG for this year is to increase participation by 50% in our five training ministries (live participation in training events, video views in our Resource library, blog views, and engagement via Facebook and Twitter).

Discipline #2 – Act on the Lead Measures

As we think about achieving WIGs, it’s helpful to differentiate between lag and lead measures. Lag measures capture what has already happened and what we can no longer control. For example, with the MinistryLift WIG, we can look at data from the past to see how we’re tracking in each of the five training ministries. Lag measures are important. Yet, if we want to accomplish our WIG, we need to be proactive and take steps that move those lag measures in the right direction. These steps are lead measures (what we can control moving forward).

Let’s say that I decided to lose 10 pounds over the next two months. At the end of every day, I hop on the weigh scale to see how I’m doing. What I see on the weigh scale is a lag measure. Now, how do I actually make the weigh scale results line up with my WIG of losing 10 pounds? I need to implement lead measures (e.g. exercising for 30 minutes each day).

Last year, our lead measure at MinistryLift was promo touches. We wanted to get the word out about MinistryLift through social media, personal conversations, presentations and numerous other means. Every month, we set a goal for how many promo touches we wanted to do. It was exciting to see how this kind of lead measure drove us toward accomplishing our WIG.

Discipline #3 – Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

“People are most satisfied with their jobs (and therefore most motivated) when those jobs give them the opportunity to experience achievement.”2 A scoreboard helps team members see how they’re doing. They can celebrate successes and reach deeper to address performance gaps when necessary.

In MinistryLift, we started off slow last year with achieving our WIG. Yet, as we persisted with our promo touch lead measure, we began to see the scoreboard change (we used a simple line graph that showed both our target and actual numbers). Seven months into the process, we finally caught up to where we needed to be with our lag measure. Two months later, we had surpassed our participation goal for the entire year!

Discipline #4 – Create a Rhythm of Accountability

How do you stay focused on your WIG and the lead measures that move you towards accomplishing your WIG? This is the purpose of the fourth discipline. “Unless we consistently hold each other accountable, the goal naturally disintegrates in the whirlwind [of daily activities].”3

Each week, the MinistryLift team takes 20-30 minutes to hold each other accountable for producing results. Each of us identifies 1-3 specific action steps related to our lead measure that we will do over the next week. The following week, we report on our progress and identify new action steps. This accountability forces us to stay focused on accomplishing what we have identified as the most important goal for our ministry.

The four disciplines of execution provide a process for helping any ministry team accomplish God’s plan for their ministry. If you'd like to learn how this strategy can be used to help your team accomplish its goals, please contact us to discuss how we can resource you in this way. You can also watch an excellent video summary of the 4 Disciplines here.  

Randy Wollf is Director of MinistryLift. 

1. Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling, The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals (New York: Free Press, 2012), 32. 
2. Ibid, 75-76. 
3. Ibid, 13.