Book Review: The Four Disciplines of Execution


I first heard of The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling (Simon & Schuster, 2012) when the Bishop of Liverpool described it at a conference as the single biggest influence on their strategy as a diocese, a strategy I might add that I find very impressive.  Since then, the book keeps coming up in conversations and in other books, and is now something we are increasingly thinking about as we plan effective ministry for our church and our church planting strategy.

In essence, the book’s chief message is to think carefully about the most significant activity to be involved in, work at that as a team (not at other things) and then measure it. In practice, it encourages four major steps – identify our primary, most ambitious goals; secondly, plan around what we can influence in the delivery of those goals, not what the ultimate outcome looks like; find ways to measure those inputs; and lastly, proactively make those measures a key way of how we act in the culture of our team.

The lynchpin, to me, is that second step.  The authors distinguish between what they call ‘lead’ and ‘lag’ measures.  The lag measure is what it will look like to achieve our major goal. So, we might say, we want to see 20 new people joining our church plant in the next year.  The problem is that we actually have no control over that – it lies between God in his sovereignty, and the people deciding whether or not join.  However, we do have control over the steps taken that can lead us to achieve our goal – in our example, how many people we invite.  So, we could devise a lead measure for our goal of growing the church by 20 people over 12 months: if, on average, it takes three invitations for every new person to come to a service, then that means that our lead measure for growing the church by 20 people over the coming year is to make sure that we invite 60 people.


Our next step is to evaluate the lead measure, and embody that in our planting team culture.  So, we measure who has invited how many people this month.  It works out at five invitations a month to reach 60 people over a year.  If we have a planting team of five (paid and volunteers), then we are looking for each person to make one clear invite a month.  We keep a measure of that, celebrating each invite, praying for one another as we make our invitations, and throwing a party when an invitation turns into an actual sign up for church.

Of course, we are partnering with God as well as each other, so we pray as much as we invite, and we acknowledge his work in people’s lives.  But we also plan cannily, invest our energy wisely, and find ways of measuring and acting together that are the most effective at delivering what we believe God is calling us to do.


John Valentine

St George’s Holborn