on December 3, 2005
As a non-profit leader, I've been waiting for this monograph to be published for several months, and Collins did not disappoint.
In a lucid style that only Collins can deliver, he masterfully explains the subtle (but seismic) concepts of good to great for the social sector. Similar to his previous books, he effectively uses a broad array of real-life examples (e.g. the NYPD, a church, the Girl Scouts, the Cleveland Orchestra, a high school science dept), helpful graphics, and a very readable, conversational tone. Even though the monograph is only 31 pages, Collins contributes his clear thinking on numerous issues that will be very familiar to social sector leaders: how to measure success in non-$ metrics, how to recruit and motivate a passionate (and poorly-paid or unpaid) staff, how to think differently about "restricted funds," and how to transcend systemic / external / industry-wide problems. I particularly enjoyed his discussion on "legistative" leadership (versus "executive" leadership in the business world). Collins predicts a dramatic reversal - that one day non-profit leaders, who have mastered legistative leadership, will be wooed away to lead for-profit businesses.
This monograph does stand on its own. However, I think you would have to be fairly familiar with the concepts in Good to Great to fully appreciate its value.
If you are still not convinced, you can also go to his website, jimcollins.com, to read 3-4 pages of snip-its from the monograph.
Regardless, I would recommend this to every social sector leader.
I have direct experience in the social sector with over twenty-five years as an advisor or board member of several, varied non-profits. "Good to Great and the Social Sectors" resonated with me as it fills a very deep void in social sector leadership guidance.
Recently, one executive newcomer to a non-profit called to tell me she was being told to back off by other executives. She was being perceived as "too businesslike"; she did not understand the non-profit world. I asked her to have these people define "businesslike." She learned that "businesslike" meant expecting people to complete assignments on time and be accountable!!
This attitude, which permeates many non-profits, is one of several targets in "Good to Great and the Social Sectors." In fact, due to the diffuse power structure that exists for most social sector organizations, non-profits need even greater discipline - disciplined planning, disciplined people, disciplined governance, disciplined allocation of resources.
And the culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness.
Non-business leaders in the social sector must operate differently as they do not have the concentrated power of a business CEO. They have a thousand points of no. It is Collins' observation that they require two skill sets - leadership skills and legislative skills - to be successful. And, he believes you will find more true leadership in the social sector as a result.
The book is organized around five issues that need to be addressed for greatness. These are:
Issue One - How do you define great without business metrics?
Issue Two - What is "Level 5 Leadership" in the social sector?
Issue Three - How can you get the right people on the bus?
Issue Four - How do you apply the Hedgehog Concept (attaining piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results) without a profit motive?
Issue Five - How do you use brand to build momentum?
Great societies have both great business sectors and great social sectors. With this in mind, Collins was motivated to write this book. He realized that it was not simply good enough for him to focus on a great business sector but also on a great social sector. He has done us a service. We will gain as a society if all who work with or for non-profits read and apply the lessons of this excellent monograph.
Many of us who work in the social sector-in my case the United Methodist Church-were encouraged and inspired by Jim Collins book Good to Great. We worked to adapt the methodology to our work, but some parts didn't fit. Collins realized from the feedback his work was getting that a large number of his readers needed more specific research into their context. This monograph is a first installment in addressing our need.
The underlying principle of the book is that we don't need to impose the language of business on the social sector, but develop a language of greatness. He does this by focusing on five issues that surfaced during the Good to Great research and tweaking them for a different mission and context. They are:
1. Defining Great-How do we calibrate success without business metrics?
2. Level 5 Leadership-Getting things done within a diffuse power structure
3. First Who-Getting the right people on the bus within social sector constraints
4. The Hedgehog Concept-Rethinking the economic engine without a profit motive
5. Turning the Flywheel-Building momentum by building the brand.
The monograph is a first look at applying these five good to great concepts to the social sector. I found it to be exciting, invigorating and one of the best things I've read in a long time. I think this is essential for non-profit leaders-especially church leaders-who want to build great organizations and build accountability within the constraints of structures that we can't change.
on May 3, 2006
I was so encouraged to see this new monograph. I work in a nonprofit and have struggled in applying some of the concepts from the Good to Great book to the nonprofit context. But this simple addition provides clarity and focus.
I really appreciated the balanced view that Jim took regarding how "busines-like" a nonprofit should be. It is so freeing to not have to be like a business but instead shoot for being a disciplined organization. I go back to his comment "Disciplined People - Disciplined Thought - Disciplined Action" constantly and am working to make that a reality in our organization.
Jim Collins impressed me for another reason as well. Instead of coming out with another edition of the book to add this chapter - which would have been much more lucrative - he decided to be a generous mind and share this in the form of a much less expensive monograph. What a help to nonprofits!
A must read if you work with or for nonprofits.
on February 23, 2007
Having read (and enthusiastically enjoyed) Jim Collins' "Good to Great" several months ago and working on a church staff, I was pleased to discover that he wrote this monograph to draw together the conclusions of that wonderful business book and the non-business world. I found this addition to be most helpful.
As with all of Collins' writing, this monograph is extremely accessible. He writes at a very intellectual level without getting overly technical. He presents the basic premise that not everything in "Good to Great" is broadly applicable outside the business world.
For instance, the difference between the executive authority that business leaders have is starkly contrasted with the legislative authority that leaders have in the social sector. Because I work almost exclusively with volunteers within the church, this distinction is important and obvious to me.
He also mentions that issues related to resources are more complicated than the relatively simplistic economic factors that exist in business. Instead, social organizations need to consider all of the available resources, which includes people and time in addition to money.
Despite these and other distinctions that Collins draws between the business world and the social sector, it is interesting to note that the overall principles of "Good to Great" remain valid. For instance, the concept of Level 5 leadership remains prescriptive for high-performing leaders outside of business.
His concluding thoughts are very insightful and instructive. In short, he suggests that the transition from good to great happens in business and outside of business. For my context, though the church may bring to bear particular difficulties and constraints, so does each and every institution. The principles of greatness are common across all organizations, even if they might look slightly different. In his words, "greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline." There is valuable wisdom in those words for those of us who work outside the business community. My one and only complaint about this resource is its price for a mere 30 pages. Nonetheless, just as I recommended the book, I would encourage anyone interested in being part of a great institution, regardless of the setting, to read this monograph.
on March 9, 2006
I think that this monograph is useful material for public sector, non-profit, or secular organizations. It presents some useful points that extend the Good to Great concepts to organizations that are not profit-driven.
My largest complaint is that the current price is not consistent with the amount of material. Good to Great is an excellent value, while this additional monograph is roughly a single additional chapter at over half the price.
on November 22, 2007
This book (actually I listened to the CD version) would have been a useful chapter or two published as part of the original "Good To Great" book. Unfortunately, I didn't think that it stood up well on its own. I was hoping for some sort of "aha" moment, but this 'monograph' failed to deliver. Maybe Jim Collins and his team were not able to do the same in-depth research on non-profits as was done on the Corporations for "Good To Great".
Hmmm . . . I was disappointed and thought I overpaid for the relative value I got out of 'Social Sectors'.
on May 23, 2008
Jim Collins is the author of "Good to Great," an influential business and leadership book. In the time since the publication of the book, Collins realized that there exist points of disconnect within the book for leaders of not-for-profit agencies (e.g. churches, local charitable organizations, groups that exist for specific causes like disease eradication or the advancement of art). In an effort to apply the concepts of "Good to Great" to the unique needs of social service organizations, this monograph was produced.
This monograph can best be thought of as an appendix or additional chapter for "Good to Great." Indeed, the reader will be lost unless first reading the work upon which this monograph is based. In it, five points/modifications/explanations are provided that address what Collins perceives to be the five biggest "trouble areas" when applying "Good to Great" to not-for-profit agencies.
First, not-for-profits struggle with the definition of "great." In the definition supplied by Collins in "Good to Great," "great" is partly defined in terms of profit margin. Since not-for-profit agencies, by definition, do not seek profits, a modification must be made. Collins suggests using anecdotal evidence and rubrics instead of budgetary numbers to determine if the organization's goals are being met.
Second, power and authority in social sector organizations are not centralized, but contain nearly limitless checks ("a thousand points of no"). Collins advocates a leadership style that emphasizes the good of the organizations. If the organizational leader can effectively communicate (legitimately, not falsely) that his main concern is the health of the organization and realization of the cause, he buys himself a lot of leeway in decision making.
Third, volunteer-based organizations feel great pressure to simply put warm bodies in positions of authority instead of selectively choosing only the best candidates. Collins argues that the pressures of a volunteer-based culture should only make the leader more determined to practice selectivity. Setting high standards, focusing on creating "pockets of excellence" within organizations, and emphasizing the moral importance of the organization can help to attract high-quality employees and volunteers.
Fourth, the concept of profit margin creeps in again. It is important to recognize that organizations--business as well as social-sector--need money to operate. Even though not-for-profit agencies are not about the money, their "hedgehog concept" should certainly include consideration of their economic engine. That is, their social cause should take into consideration the question, "will people actually buy into our cause and support it with donations of volunteer hours, monetary donations, and in-kind support?"
Finally, the organization must not neglect promoting itself as a "brand." Although the natural inclination of social sector institutions is to keep the focus on the cause, they must also make sure people understand that the organization is meeting the cause effectively...indeed, they are "the best" at what they do. A reputation for excellence tends to attract loyalty and donations. Consider Harvard University, which attracts millions of dollars it doesn't necessarily need because people believe that a Harvard education is "the best" in the world.
In all, as a pastor in a not-for-profit church, this book addressed all the concerns I had in applying Collins' "Good to Great" concepts in my situation. Truth be told, it even addressed problems I had not yet identified. I highly recommend this brief monograph to compliment "Good to Great."
on February 29, 2016
I am the financial leader for our small nonprofit organization. As I was getting my MBA, I was constantly making the adjustments in my mind to make the business content fit our nonprofit world. I did the same while reading Good To Great a couple years ago. Still, I was glad to see Collins had produced this monograph written specifically relating to the social sectors.
The booklet is only 35 pages long, and, as he says in the intro, was originally intended to be an additional chapter in GTG. It fit that format, clearly drawing on the principles of GTG, while specifically identifying some of the unique factors in the social sector that call for adjustments to the principles (such as “economic engine” becoming “resource engine.”
If you have not read Good To Great, you may not be able to simply pick up this monograph and easily follow along. As noted, it was meant to be an additional chapter to the book. So while there is some overview of the Good to Great principles given, the writing clearly expects you to be familiar with the content of the full book.
And though I appreciate the attention Collins gives to the social sector (something few business experts do), he also indicated he may not be quite as engaged in this field. At one point he states his team was not very motivated to do research into the social sector in the same way they did in their business analytics, and later states further research may reveal differing conclusions, indicating theirs was not very extensive.
However, if you have read Good To Great and work within the social or nonprofit world, I recommend the book. The content will spark thought and the final section on building pockets of greatness is worth the price alone. As the thesis for the monograph states, it’s not about a language/culture of for-profit and nonprofit, but of greatness, and that can be done in any field or sector.
on February 28, 2008
The high praise by many of the reviewers of this book makes me feel that Jim Collins had his whole staff send in reviews. He defines no terms including non-business entities, business thinking, and social sector; states there are valid ways to assess greatness without metrics but gives no examples or gives examples that ARE metrics; claims the use of business language is naive and then analyzes "non-businesses" (whatever they are, he never says) using the language of business (budgets, financial statements, annual reports, executive compensation, etc); talks about motivation as though he just discovered that money isn't all there is (think Maslow's hierarchy of needs); and talks about building momentum as though he never heard of successful companies whose success destroyed them because they FAILED to follow the rules of business (growing too fast, or expanding into activities too far removed from the core activity, for example). I have not read any of Mr. Collins' other works but this one is just befuddled. The only concrete statement he makes towards greatness is "hire the best people." Duh. Other than that, I did not find anything that made sense in this work. It is filled with the illusion of ideas, that when looked at closely evaporate.