What's Your 20 Mile March? Do You Have Great Business Execution?

By Patrick Thean

dateMon, Jun 11, 2012 @ 07:33 AM

It was great to catch Jim Collins at the last Leadership Summit in Atlanta.  Jim connected the dots of how20-mile-march-for-annual-planning his four books (Built To Last, Good To Great, How the Mighty Fall, and Great by Choice) were focused on answering one compelling question - what makes a company great?

One of the key things that makes a company great, as it turns out, is awesome business execution found in his "20 mile march" idea.  The 20 mile march is a consistent rhythm of execution, with discipline applied to maintain a steady and disciplined growth path.  It is different for each company, and it does not have to be purely financial.  Jim contrasted Stryker Medical's 20% annual profit growth with Intel's doubling the processing power of a microprocessor every 18 months.  Both were steady 20 mile march concepts, tailored for the company. 

You want a consistent 20 mile march versus unpredictable swings in growth.  That means we need to have the discipline to have an upper boundary of growth as well as a lower boundary.  Most companies have a lower boundary of growth, but not an upper boundary.  Why an upper boundary?  So that you do not over eat from the buffet of opportunity and die from indigestion.  Indigestion comes from poor business execution and not having enough great people filling the key execution seats.

So what is your 20 mile march?  Here are some questions to help you think about this and work on your business:

  • What is the right upper boundary that we should use to regulate our growth?
  • What do we already do that is consistent and successful that we might want to institutionalize?
  • Do we have a clear long term strategy that can guide our 20 mile march?

I know, an upper boundary of growth sounds weird for entrepreneurs.  Almost sounds illegal for us growaholics!  But Jim Collin's data driven research is undeniable.  20 mile marches win! 

But why do they win... my growaholic friends will ask... 

  • Because great execution and discipline helps you win. 
  • A consistent pattern allows you to react faster to new and difficult circumstances.
  • Your team is focused, knows what to do and wastes less energy.
  • Your team gains confidence by winning consistently.

Need help with you 20 mile march?  Start by setting aside time each week and discuss this with your partner, co-founders, or executive teams.  Expect it to take multiple discussions over a few months to work on your business and arrive at your customer fitted 20 mile march.

Have more questions?  Feel free to post your questions here and our team will be glad to help you!


Executive Summary from Patrick Thean's book Rhythm

Patrick Thean


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