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How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In Hardcover – May 19, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jim Collins is author or coauthor of six books that have sold in total more than ten million copies worldwide, including the bestsellers Good to Great, Built to Last, and How the Mighty Fall. 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. He now operates a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, where he conducts research, teaches, and consults with executives from the corporate and social sectors.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: JimCollins; 1 edition (May 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977326411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977326419
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of leadership and what makes great companies tick.

Having invested a quarter century of research into the topic, he has authored or co-authored six books that have sold in total more than ten million copies worldwide. They include: GOOD TO GREAT, the #1 bestseller, which examines why some companies and leaders make the leap to superior results, along with its companion work GOOD TO GREAT AND THE SOCIAL SECTORS; the enduring classic BUILT TO LAST, which explores how some leaders build companies that remain visionary for generations; HOW THE MIGHTY FALL, which delves into how once-great companies can self-destruct; and most recently, GREAT BY CHOICE, which is about thriving in chaos - why some do, and others don't - and the leadership behaviors needed in a world beset by turbulence, disruption, uncertainty, and dramatic change.

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 conducts research and engages in Socratic dialogue with CEOs and senior leadership teams. In addition to his work in the business sector, Jim has passion for learning and teaching in the social sectors, including education, healthcare, government, faith-based organizations, social ventures, and cause-driven non-profits. In 2012 and 2013, he had the honor to serve a two-year appointment as the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Jim holds a bachelor's degree in mathematical sciences and an MBA 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.

He is an avid rock climber, with one-day ascents of the north face of Half Dome and the 3,000 foot south face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

460 of 507 people found the following review helpful By Don Sull on May 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me preface this review by saying that I am a fan of Collins' earlier work. Built to Last was a great book, and Good to Great was very good. How the Mighty Fall, however, is neither. The issue of corporate failure is critical, particularly in the current downturn. Unfortunately, the core of Collins' analysis in this book is flawed.

How the Mighty Fall addresses two related questions: Why do good companies fail? and how does management respond once a company gets into trouble? Collins introduces a five stage model to answer these questions, where steps one and two address the roots of corporate failure and steps three through five managements' response.

Collins' analysis of management response to decline--denial of risk, grasping for salvation, and capitulation to irrelevance or death--accurately describe how leaders respond to deterioration in their business. This analysis here is solid, the writing clear, and the tempo brisk. Collins does a particularly good job of describing dysfunctional leadership behaviors of companies is in decline.

Collins' analysis of why companies get into trouble in the first place is much less compelling. Companies fail, according to Collins, when success breeds managerial hubris, which leads to overreach and ultimately failure. Like many of Collins' findings, this makes intuitive sense. Unfortunately in this case, his core argument runs counter to research on hundreds of companies, conducted over decades by dozens of scholars. There are two major flaws in Collins argument.

First, he claims that companies get into trouble because they overreach and expand beyond their core. This is consistent with data showing that diversified companies trade at a discount to focused rivals.
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82 of 96 people found the following review helpful By S. Durocher on May 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
One thing that strikes me about Jim Collins' work is that he is passionate about what he does. He and his researchers dig down deep into companies and examine them from different perspectives over a period of time. As he says, "We do not decide which companies we 'want' to study... we lay out the criteria for the study-set selection before we see the data and systematically eliminate companies from consideration based on whether they meet the criteria." This has given him great insight into what success is, not just for corporations, but for any institution.

What comes through in his recent book, along with passionate study, is honesty. Collins previously chose Fannie Mae as a "Good to Great" institution. Recently, they have demonstrated anything but greatness in facing economic and marketplace changes. There are other companies he chose, like Circuit City, that have gone the same path. Collins discusses why these enterprises were chosen in his previous book and why they fell on hard times after once being great. Because a great company stumbles into mediocrity does not mean the criteria is flawed or the framework wrong. Rather, as the study shows, somewhere along the way these companies strayed away from what once made them great. "How the Mighty Fall" uses the same criteria from "Good to Great," only in reverse, to show how and why once great enterprises have fallen. Collins does this with the same attention to detail and passion as in his previous works.

There are a couple of parts that I found most interesting from the book. First is the chapter entitled "The Undisciplined Pursuit of More." The examples of Ames and Rubbermaid, along with the other ideas presented in this chapter, really hit home in light of recent developments in our financial markets.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." -- Genesis 11:4

How the Mighty Fall takes a methodology similar to Built to Last and Good to Great and searches for differences among paired companies (Loser--Winner; A&P--Kroger; Addressograph--Pitney Bowes; Ames--Wal-Mart; Bank of America--Wells Fargo; Circuit City--Best Buy; Hewlett Packard--IBM; Merck--Johnson & Johnson; Motorola--Texas Instruments; Rubbermaid--None qualified; Scott Paper--Kimberly-Clark; and Zenith--Motorola) As you can see, it all makes for strange bedfellows (Motorola is on both sides of the divide and Rubbermaid doesn't have a winning comparison partner). As before, the analysis relies on public information from that period (such as annual reports, business journalism articles, and analyst reports).

From these data, Jim Collins discerns the following taxonomy of stages:

1. Hubris (excess pride) due to prior success
2. Undisciplined pursuit of more
3. Denial of risk and peril
4. Grasping for salvation
5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death

Reaching any one of these stages doesn't mean that stage 5 is inevitable in Collins' view.

The result is more like a monograph than a full business book with limited examples and observations. Many readers will find themselves hungering for more.

I was grateful to Mr. Collins for the excellent way that he defined and described his cases. As a result, I was able to look into what he was measuring to see what else might be there.

I had the good fortune to work with most of these companies as a consultant either just before or during the measurement period.
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