20 Mile March
I went for a nice hike on the Appalachian Trail this weekend and even though the weather forecast called for scatter showers, it quickly turned to steady rain. Under the canopy of the forest it wasn’t a big deal and was actually kind of peaceful. Later a friend was amused that I went for a hike in the rain. His comments reminded me of Jim Collin’s twenty mile march analogy in Great By Choice.
Jim Collins’ 2011 book Great By Choice centers an analogy of the “20-Mile March” and how leaders can deliver consistent results in business. Collins uses the comparisons of strategy by explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott and their efforts to lead their teams to be the first to the South Pole in October 1911. Amundsen executed a strategy of consistent twenty mile marches every day, regardless of conditions. This meant going less than possible on good days, and persevering on bad days to accomplish the set twenty miles.
This is a hard concept for business leaders to get their head around. Pushing on bad days, yes, many will agree that you can pound the pavement and strike a sense of urgency when times are tough. Holding back on good days? What? This is where many leaders fail to agree with the concept. Yet time and time again we see businesses grow to quickly, grabbing every possible sale to “make hay while the sun shines”, yet they stumble and fail to deliver the results expected by their markets. You may call this overselling and under delivering. In any event having the discipline to say no to growth that exceeds the stated goal of your twenty mile equivalent is a difficult thing to do but could be necessary for your organization to succeed.
As I found during my hike, some days you just need to push forward in the rain to be sure you get your miles in and hit your target.