How to Start Your 13-Week Race With Discipline

By Patrick Thean

CEO Mike Praeger just kicked off AvidXchange’s 15th year in business. They celebrated their explosivehorses-430439_1280 growth over the last few years and inspired the team about how 2015 will be their best year ever. He shared that they were on their 57th 13-Week Race. They plan every quarter and execute their quarterly plan with discipline, which directly relates to their success. AvidXchange is one of the most disciplined companies I know, and discipline is key to a company succeeding year over year, and going from good to great, as Jim Collins discusses in his most recent book, Great by Choice.

In the book, Jim talks about how all great companies have a 20 mile march. The term 20 mile march comes from a story he tells in the book about two explorers who are on a mission to trek roughly 1,400 miles in the South Pole.  One explorer, every day, rain or shine, gets up and does 20 miles. The other explorer has some days where he does 40 miles, and then other days when he rests. Guess which explorer completed his journey? The one who was disciplined and consistent, and put in his 20 miles each day. Jim Collins then compares it to the business world and shows how a consistent 20 mile march outperforms companies that explode in one year and pull back in another. In my book, Rhythm, I call this maintaining a disciplined rhythm of execution.

Today our coaching team works with over 100 different companies to instill this rhythm of discipline. We teach our clients to stop at the end of every quarter and ask themselves, what went well and what didn’t? We use this as a chance to learn from mistakes and search for bright spots, things that can be replicated and scaled. To plan for the next quarter, we use a tool called Start, Stop, Keep. We take our knowledge from the previous quarter and use it to help us decide what strategy or winning moves to focus on in the next quarter. Then we take it to the next level and iron out the execution details and figure out how we will do the work, who does what and who owns it. Finally, we kick off the quarter and run like hell for the next 13 weeks! Then at the end of the quarter, we do it all over again. This is the type of discipline that breeds greatness. 

One of the reasons AvidXchange has such productive quarterly and annual planning sessions is that they bring in a facilitator. This allows Mike, the CEO, to fully participate, observe and learn from his team and develop them further. In my years of experience, I’ve found that when the CEO is facilitating their own quarterly planning session, they can’t listen well. And, not only do they have difficulty listening, but others tend to not share as much if the CEO shares his or her opinion first. I would suggest letting everyone share their ideas first and then having CEOs speak last. It’s always amazing to see how easily the plan comes together during these sessions when they are facilitated properly.

So, are you ready to start your rhythm of execution? When you prepare well, you start your quarter ready for success. If you’re not prepared, you’re setting yourself up to fail. So start your 20 mile march today by preparing for your 13 week race.

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Patrick Thean


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