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The 20 Mile March Discipline – Great by Choice

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Mar 28, 2013

Why all this focus on Great by Choice?

In a word - Discipline.  The triangle to the right describe the imageillustrates the fundamental elements of Great by Choice and the stories it offers. You’ll notice the prominent place for what they call “Fanatic Discipline” at the tip of the triangle.

Nothing illustrates the impact of discipline more than one of the fundamental lessons from Great by Choice on how great companies achieve success. 

Over and over stories of the great companies (10Xers) offer lessons on how success didn’t come in a single leap or even an enormous ascendancy in a short period of time.  It’s comparable to Good to Great’s principle of slow steady pressure on the flywheel.  The 10Xers Collins describes in the book focused on hitting specified performance benchmarks with great consistency over longer periods of time.  The comparison companies tended to over extend and get greedy or gobbled up when the economy or times got hard.

The 20 Mile March discipline requires dealing with two distinct types of discomfort:

  • Delivering high performance in difficult times
  • Holding back in good times.

describe the imageYou may have seen other articles written about the 20 Mile March, the classic offered in the book is Ronald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott’s quest to be the first to reach the South Pole.  The “20 Mile March” comes from the winner of the race, Amundsen’s methodical, disciplined consistent approach to march 20 miles each day no matter how good or bad the weather and conditions were.  Amundsen’s approach applies the principles of SMaC, Specific, Methodical, and Consistent.

In order to demonstrate this type of discipline you need to decide consciously not to be greedy when times are good and not loaf or diminish your efforts or expectations when they aren’t.  How many of us have that kind of discipline?

What’s the benefit of this 20 Mile March philosophy?  According to Great by Choice’s research in 29 events in which companies 20 Mile Marched into a turbulent industry episode, they came out of the turbulence with a good outcome in every single instance.  That’s without exception a prefect 29 out 29 times.  In 23 events where companies failed to 20 Mile March heading into turbulent industry episodes they emerged from the turbulent episode with a good outcome 3 out of 23 times.

Figure out the numbers.

100% versus 13%. 

That’s the value of building a 20 Mile March Philosophy for your company. 

Does this not demonstrate the impact of discipline?  It’s the value of developing and practicing Positioning Systems Strategic Discipline formula

The 20 Mile March Discipline is very similar to developing the practice of Strategic Discipline focusing on establishing priorities, determining dashboards/metrics to monitor achieving your priorities and then a cadence of accountability through consistent meeting rhythms.

Disciplines become routines, and when they do the habit becomes natural.  That’s the value of establishing and practicing Strategic Discipline.  Before long you have built an unconscious discipline that keeps your business in a continuous process of accepting and initiating change.  It guarantees you will maintain and grow your business while navigating storms that periodically confront your industry.

More lessons from Great by Choice next blog. 


Topics: Strategic Discipline, Great by Choice, 10Xers, fanatic discipline, SMaC, 20 Mile March

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Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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