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Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't [Kindle Edition]

Jim Collins
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,418 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the verybeginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

  • Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness.
  • The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence.
  • A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology.
  • The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

“Some of the key concepts discerned in the study,” comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Five years ago, Jim Collins asked the question, "Can a good company become a great company and if so, how?" In Good to Great Collins, the author of Built to Last, concludes that it is possible, but finds there are no silver bullets. Collins and his team of researchers began their quest by sorting through a list of 1,435 companies, looking for those that made substantial improvements in their performance over time. They finally settled on 11--including Fannie Mae, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo--and discovered common traits that challenged many of the conventional notions of corporate success. Making the transition from good to great doesn't require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management, or even a fine-tuned business strategy. At the heart of those rare and truly great companies was a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner. Peppered with dozens of stories and examples from the great and not so great, the book offers a well-reasoned road map to excellence that any organization would do well to consider. Like Built to Last, Good to Great is one of those books that managers and CEOs will be reading and rereading for years to come. --Harry C. Edwards

From Publishers Weekly

In what Collins terms a prequel to the bestseller Built to Last he wrote with Jerry Porras, this worthwhile effort explores the way good organizations can be turned into ones that produce great, sustained results. To find the keys to greatness, Collins's 21-person research team (at his management research firm) read and coded 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project. That Collins is able to distill the findings into a cogent, well-argued and instructive guide is a testament to his writing skills. After establishing a definition of a good-to-great transition that involves a 10-year fallow period followed by 15 years of increased profits, Collins's crew combed through every company that has made the Fortune 500 (approximately 1,400) and found 11 that met their criteria, including Walgreens, Kimberly Clark and Circuit City. At the heart of the findings about these companies' stellar successes is what Collins calls the Hedgehog Concept, a product or service that leads a company to outshine all worldwide competitors, that drives a company's economic engine and that a company is passionate about. While the companies that achieved greatness were all in different industries, each engaged in versions of Collins's strategies. While some of the overall findings are counterintuitive (e.g., the most effective leaders are humble and strong-willed rather than outgoing), many of Collins's perspectives on running a business are amazingly simple and commonsense. This is not to suggest, however, that executives at all levels wouldn't benefit from reading this book; after all, only 11 companies managed to figure out how to change their B grade to an A on their own.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
655 of 738 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rare Pathways to Exceptionally Increased Prosperity October 16, 2001
Format:Hardcover
This study was stimulated by Mr. Bill Meehan's (head of McKinsey in San Francisco) observation that Built to Last wasn't very helpful to companies, because the firms studied had always been great. Most companies have been good, and never great. What should these firms do?
Jim Collins and his team have done an enormous amount of interesting work to determine whether a good company can be come a great company, and how. The answer to the former question is "yes," assuming that the 11 of 1435 Fortune 500 companies did not make it there by accident. The answer to the latter is less clear. The study group identified a number of characteristics that their 11 companies had in common, which were much less frequently present in comparison companies. However, the study inexplicably fails to look at these same characteristics to see how often they succeed in the general population of companies. If these characteristics work 100 percent of the time, you really have something. If they work 5 percent of the time, then not too much is proven.
How were the 11 study companies selected? The criteria take pages to explain in an appendix. Let me simplify by saying that their stock price growth had to be in a range from somewhat lower than to not much higher than the market averages for 15 years. Then, in the next 15 years the stocks had to soar versus the market averages and comparison companies while remaining independent. That's hard to do. The selected companies are Abbott Laboratories, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Nucor, Philip Morris, Pitney Bowes, Walgreen, and Wells Fargo.
As to the "how," attention was focused on what happened before and during the transition from average performance to high performance.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
By ES
Format:Hardcover
"Good to Great" introduces readers to the concept of an enduring great company, one that sustains tremendous growth for at least 15 years from the so called "turning point".

Published in 2001, the book gives us a great opportunity to analyze how much endurance there is in a great enduring company.

Since many of the graphs in the book end in 1998, let's see how the eleven example companies listed in the book did in the next 15 years, from 1998 to 2013.

If a convinced reader of the book bought $1 worth of stock of each company back in 1998, the total return on the portfolio in 2013 would be $19.72.

In comparison, the Dow Jones went from 8,000 to 15,000, so the return on investment of $11 in general market would be $20.62.

It turns out, on average, the "great enduring companies" performed slightly worse than general market in the next 15 years after their big sustained successes.

After the author's praise to the great management teams at the companies which target for sustained long-term growth and build a lasting corporate culture to support the growth, these results are disappointing. In the timelines presented in book, the same portfolio does 8x better than the general market, not 5% worse.

Conclusion: The book is well-written and full of interesting notions and quotes. But its main value today is seeing what happened next to superstar companies scientifically and elaborately picked as examples by a group led by a Stanford scholar. There is no way around a feeling that even these highly educated individuals fell under the spell of success and started to find patterns and laws where there were none.
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590 of 688 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Neither Good Nor Great July 30, 2008
Format:Hardcover
This book by Jim Collins is one of the most successful books to be found in the "Business" section of your local megabookstore, and given how it purports to tell you how to take a merely good company and make it great, it's not difficult to see why that might be so. Collins and his crack team of researchers say they swam through stacks of business literature in search of info on how to pull this feat off, and came up with a list of great companies that illustrate some concepts central to the puzzle. They also present for each great company what they call a "comparison company," which is kind of that company with a goatee and a much less impressive earnings record. The balance of the book is spent expanding on pithy catch phrases that describe the great companies, like "First Who, Then What" or "Be a Hedgehog" or "Grasp the Flywheel, not the Doom Loop." No, no, I'm totally serious.

I've got several problems with this book, the biggest of which stem from fundamentally viewpoints on how to do research. Collin's brand of research is not my kind. It's not systematic, it's not replicable, it's not generalizable, it's not systematic, it's not free of bias, it's not model driven, and it's not collaborative. It's not, in short, scientific in any way. That's not to say that other methods of inquiry are without merit --the Harvard Business Review makes pretty darn good use of case studies, for example-- but way too often Collins's great truths seemed like square pegs crammed into round holes, because a round hole is what he wants. For example, there's no reported search for information that disconfirms his hypotheses. Are there other companies that don't make use of a Culture of Discipline (Chapter 6, natch) but yet are still great according to Collins's definition?
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More About the Author

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of enduring great companies -- how they grow, how they attain superior performance, and how good companies can become great companies. Having invested over a decade of research into the topic, Jim has authored or co-authored four books, including the classic BUILT TO LAST, a fixture on the Business Week best seller list for more than six years, and has been translated into 29 languages. His work has been featured in Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Harvard Business Review, and Fast Company.

Jim's most recent book, GOOD TO GREAT: Why Some Companies Make the Leap & And Others Don't attained long-running positions on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Business Week best seller lists, has sold 3 million hardcover copies since publication and has been translated into 35 languages, including such languages as Latvian, Mongolian and Vietnamese.

Driven by a relentless curiosity, Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. In 1995, he founded a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, where he now conducts research and teaches executives from the corporate and social sectors. Jim holds degrees in business administration and mathematical sciences from Stanford University, and honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Colorado and the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.
Jim has served as a teacher to senior executives and CEOs at over a hundred corporations. He has also worked with social sector organizations, such as: Johns Hopkins Medical School, the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Leadership Network of Churches, the American Association of K-12 School Superintendents, and the United States Marine Corps. In 2005 he published a monograph: Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

In addition, Jim is an avid rock climber and has made one-day ascents of the North Face of Half Dome and the Nose route on the South Face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. He continues to climb at the 5.13 grade.

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