20 Mile March

– a quick personal note: I’m away attending to some urgent family business, so I’ve had to suspend the 2013 GsD Fall Term for a week. In it’s place, I’m reposting one of the most popular series on 27gen – a look at Jim Collins’ book Great by Choice with application to ChurchWorld. It continues to get views almost every day, so I hope you enjoy the entire series

Great by Choice is the latest work by Jim Collins, answering a single question: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Collins and his colleague Morten Hansen enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times.

Like the world we live in today.

Yesterday’s post looked at the three core behaviors that Collins and Hansen identified in their successful group – the 10Xers.

courtesy gazellessystems.com

courtesy gazellessystems.com

The first of these – Fanatic Discipline – is illustrated by the term “20 Mile March.” You need to read the book to get the full understanding, but here is Collins’ summary:

To “20 Mile March” requires hitting specified performance marks with great consistency over a long period of time. It requires two distinct types of discomfort, delivering high performance in difficult times and holding back in good times.

A good 20 Mile March has the following seven characteristics:

  • Clear performance markers
  • Self-imposed constraints
  • Appropriate to the specific enterprise
  • Largely within the company’s control to achieve
  • A proper timeframe – long enough to manage; yet short enough to have teeth
  • Imposed by the company on itself
  • Achieved with high consistency

A 20 Mile March needn’t be financial. You can have a creative march, a learning march, a service-improvement march, or any other type of march, as long as it has the primary characteristics of a good 20 Mile March.

The 20 Mile March builds confidence. By adhering to a 20 Mile March no matter what challenges and unexpected shocks you encounter, you prove to yourself and your enterprise that performance is not determined by your conditions but largely by your own actions.

Failing to 20 Mile March leaves an organization more exposed to turbulent events. Every comparison case had at least one episode of slamming into a difficult time without having the discipline of a 20 Mile March in place, which resulted in a major setback or catastrophe.

The 20 Mile March helps you exert self-control in an out-of-control environment.

10X winners set their own 20 Mile March, appropriate to their own enterprises; they don’t let outside pressures define it for them.

20 Mile Marching wasn’t a luxury afforded to the 10X cases by their success; they had 20 Mile Marches in place long before they were big successes, which helped them to become successful in the first place.

How far are you going to march today? And tomorrow? And the next day? and the next…

Great by Choice


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