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Be 10 Times Better

Posted by David Greer in Leadership, Strategy | 1 comments


While published in 2011, I have just now finished reading Great By Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen. Like Collins’ most famous book, Good to Great, Great by Choice shows meticulous research. The premise of Collins and Hansen’s research was why do some companies thrive in chaotic environments while others flounder?

What they discovered is what they call 10Xers. Leaders who over a 30-year period outperformed their competitors by ten times. They studied these leaders and their companies to come up with these conclusions about why they were able to survive and thrive over a very long period, often with massive changes in their industry and markets.

Discipline. The 10Xers had tremendous discipline. They focused on what the author’s call a “20-mile march.” The idea is to create a stretch goal for your company (marching 20 miles a day, every day, is a stretch goal) and then to consistently reach that goal. What is fascinating is the 10X companies held back in good times to achieve the same 20-mile march, no matter what the circumstances. It was this discipline and consistency that led to their success.

Experiment.  Collins and Hansen use the analogy of bullets and cannonballs. Many of the failed competitors bet everything on a single cannonball, often choosing the wrong target. The 10Xers shot many bullets, calibrating their shots at every step along the way. Only when they had calibrated the bullets and the target did they gather their resources and shoot a cannonball.

Oxygen.  If you want to survive on Mount Everest, you need to have enough oxygen. For companies, oxygen is cash. The 10Xers are paranoid, keeping far greater cash reserves than their poorly performing competitors. They also found ways to bound risk, largely by having the capability to zoom out and zoom in to change perspective, even in times of rapid change and chaos.

Structure.  Another key ingredient the 10Xers have is a well-defined structure they call SMaC (Specific, Methodical, and Consistent). The SMaC for Southwest Airlines has ten points. Despite deregulation, 9/11, downturns, and increasing competition, the Southwest Airlines SMaC has hardly changed in 30 years.

Luck. The final chapter on luck demonstrates that both the 10X performers and their competitors had equal amounts of both good and bad luck. What was different is how the 10Xers responded to the luck that they had.

All of us can make the choices shown by the 10X leaders in Great by Choice. The challenge is having the long-term drive to stick with these choices year in and year out.

What choices will you make?


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  1. Pingback: The Best of Lead With Giants – June 2016

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