Whirlwinds and WIGs

Karen Rothstein, PhD
eLumen Vice President of Strategy and Research

As summer winds down, a new academic year begins filled with excitement and opportunity: new students to teach, new courses to create, new programs to develop, new committees to join…

And then there’s the on-going work: managing enrollment, teaching, developing class schedules, meeting with students, assessing courses and programs, reviewing programs…

Lest we forget the initiatives: Pathways Programs, Student Equity work, English and Math remediation reform, Dual Enrollment…

Given the multiple needs pulling institutions in different directions, have you ever asked yourself, how can I be part of this new project or initiative in addition to what I already do every day? Where am I going to find the time? If the answer is yes, then may I recommend reading The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney, and Jim Huling. In an easy to read style with real-life examples, the authors share how to tackle the “whirlwind” or urgent, day-to-day work and also achieve the “wildly important goal” (WIG) that is essential to meeting an institution’s mission or strategy. Below is a quick glimpse at the four disciplines of execution.

Discipline 1: Focus on the wildly important
It is difficult if not impossible to improve significantly everything at once so focus on one extremely important goal and make it clear that this is the goal that matters the most.

Discipline 2: Act on the lead measures

While the lagging measure of achieving the WIG is always the driving force, the leading measures indicate progress toward the WIG. Ask, what are the new behaviors that will drive success on the important goal? Two important aspects of leading measures are that they are predictive of achieving the WIG and can be influenced by the team.

The key principle behind lead measures is simply this: leverage (p. 52)

Discipline3: Keep a compelling scoreboard

People who are more engaged are more likely to participate and perform. And often people are engaged when they know the “score” or their progress. Thus, a simple “scoreboard” designed for and perhaps by the “players” helps keep an institution focused on achieving the WIG while providing tangible proof of progress.

Discipline 4: Create a cadence of accountability

While the first three disciplines are key building blocks, Discipline 4 is where execution takes place. If individuals don’t hold one another accountable, a WIG will quickly fall to the wayside and the whirlwind will take over. To avoid this, have short, frequent meetings to share progress. Ask, “What are the one or two most important things I can do in the next week (outside of the whirlwind) that will have the biggest impact on my scoreboard” and then share the results at the weekly meetings.

As an institution balances the WIG and the whirlwind, technology can play a key role in enabling the work. eLumen’s Strategic Planning ensures that all planning efforts tie directly back to the WIG providing a systematic process for keeping the institution focused on the WIG. eLumen houses SIS, LMS, Assessment, Curriculum, and Planning data, giving an institution a single source of truth to inform leading indicators, the scoreboard, and accountability metrics. Thus, regular meetings to discuss progress include data that are comprehensive, accurate, and up to date.  

If you’d like to talk more about eLumen and how it can support whirlwinds and WIGS, please send me an email or message me on LinkedIn…have a great fall semester!

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals. New York, NY: Free Press.

Email: karen@elumenconnect.com 

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