Work On Your 20 Mile March During Annual Planning

By Patrick Thean

dateWed, Oct 10, 2012 @ 08:30 AM

Jim Collins talks about the 20 mile march in chapter 4 of his book "Great By Choice".  If you have not read this book yet, you should.  You can choose to build a great company by having fanatical discipline.  The 20 mile march is part of this fanatical discipline.  I had previously blogged on the 20 mile march

If you have not figured out what the 20 mile march is for your company yet, consider taking some time during your Annual Planning session to discuss with your team what your 20 mile march should be.  With your 20 mile march figured out, can can then apply this discipline to determine what your annual plan should be.

You want to first figure out what a great 20 mile march is for your company, then figure out how to build fanatical discipline around it.

Here are some questions to help you figure out your 20 mile march during your annual planning session:

    •    First consider when we did really well - what were our best years?  What did we do in all those years?  See if you can find a pattern that gave you consistent and great success.

    •    Revenues and profit are really results of your hard work.  What really drives our growth in revenues and profit?  For example, this could be product releases, or types of customers you were able to win, or certain business ratios that seem to maintain good company health.

    •    If you have a long term 10+ year goal (BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal), what KPI (Key Performance Indicator) can I measure each year or month or week that will help me get there consistently?

What we are looking for are patterns of success that you already have in your company.  Take your best pattern of success, and build fanatical discipline around it with the 20 mile march.

When I did this exercise with my clients, what seems obvious at first glance is to do something similar to Stryker and choose a 20 mile march built around profit.  I typically hear "For Stryker it was 20% profit growth each year, so for us its  x% profit growth each year."  Before you land on that solution, consider that there may be a better 20 mile march marker for you.  That's why the questions I have above help you to focus on discovering what was special during the years that the company did well.  Dig deeper.  Dig deeper for a 20 mile march that helps you to replicate success consistently and continuously.  You have already done it before.  You just need to pull the genius of your team during your annual planning session and discover what it is that you had done.


Patrick Thean


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