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Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't Kindle Edition
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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?
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?
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 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 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?
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Good to Great CDWhy Some Companies Make the Leap...and Other's Don'tBy James C. Collins
HarperAudioCopyright ©2005 James C. Collins
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGood is the Enemy of Great>
That's what makes death so hard - unsatisfied curiosity.
West with the Night
Good is the enemy of great.
And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.
We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good - and that is their main problem.
This point became piercingly clear to me in 1996, when I was having dinner with a group of thought leaders gathered for a discussion about organizational performance. Bill Meehan, the managing director of the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Company, leaned over and casually confided, "You know, Jim, we love Built to Last around here. You and your coauthor did a very fine job on the research and writing. Unfortunately, it's useless."
Curious, I asked him to explain.
"The companies you wrote about were, for the most part, always great," he said. "They never had to turn themselves from good companies into great companies. They had parents like David Packard and George Merck, who shaped the character of greatness from early on. But what about the vast majority of companies that wake up partway through life and realize that they're good, but not great?"companies, for the most part, have always been great. And the vast I now realize that Meehan was exaggerating for effect with his "useless" comment, but his essential observation was correct - that truly great majority of good companies remain just that - good, but not great. Indeed, Meehan's comment proved to be an invaluable gift, as it planted the seed of a question that became the basis of this entire book -namely, Can a good company become a great company and, if so, how? Or is the disease of "just being good" incurable?
Five years after that fateful dinner we can now say, without question, that good to great does happen, and we've learned much about the underlying variables that make it happen. Inspired by Bill Meehan's challenge, my research team and I embarked on a five-year research effort, a journey to explore the inner workings of good to great.
In essence, we identified companies that made the leap from good results to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. We compared these companies to a carefully selected control group of comparison companies that failed to make the leap, or if they did, failed to sustain it. We then compared the good-to-great companies to the comparison companies to discover the essential and distinguishing factors at work.
The good-to-great examples that made the final cut into the study attained extraordinary results, averaging cumulative stock returns 6.9 times the general market in the fifteen years following their transition points. To put that in perspective, General Electric (considered by many to be the best-led company in America at the end of the twentieth century) outperformed the market by 2.8 times over the fifteen years 1985 to 2000. Furthermore, if you invested $1 in a mutual fund of the good-to-great companies in 1965, holding each company at the general market rate until the date of transition, and simultaneously invested $1 in a general market stock fund, your $1 in the good-to-great fund taken out on January 1, 2000, would have multiplied 471 times, compared to a 56 fold increase in the market.
These are remarkable numbers, made all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that they came from companies that had previously been so utterly unremarkable. Consider just one case, Walgreens. For over forty years, Walgreens had bumped along as a very average company, more or less tracking the general market. Then in 1975, seemingly out of nowhere - bang! Walgreens began to climb...and climb...and climb...and climb...and it just kept climbing. From December 31, 1975, to January 1, 2000, $1 invested in Walgreens beat $1 invested in technology superstar Intel by nearly two times, General Electric by nearly five times, Coca-Cola by nearly eight times, and the general stock market (including the NASDAQ stock run-up at the end of 1999) by over fifteen times.
How on earth did a company with such a long history of being nothing special transform itself into an enterprise that outperformed some of the best-led organizations in the world? And why was Walgreens able to make the leap when other companies in the same industry with the same opportunities and similar resources, such as Eckerd, did not make the leap? This single case captures the essence of our quest.
This book is not about Walgreens per se, or any of the specific companies we studied. It is about the question - Can a good company become a great company and, if so, how? - and our search for timeless, universal answers that can be applied by any organization.
"Our five-year quest yielded many insights, a number of them
surprising and quite contrary to conventional wisdom, but one giant
conclusion stands above the others: We believe that almost any
organization can substantially improve its stature and performance,
perhaps even become great, if it conscientiously applies the framework of
ideas we've uncovered."
This book is dedicated to teaching what we've learned. The remainder of this introductory chapter tells the story of our journey, outlines our research method, and previews the key findings. In chapter 2, we launch headlong into the findings themselves, beginning with one of the most provocative of the whole study: Level 5 leadership.
People often ask, "What motivates you to undertake these hugeresearch projects?" It's a good question. The answer is, "Curiosity."...
Excerpted from Good to Great CDby James C. Collins Copyright ©2005 by James C. Collins. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
- ASIN : B0058DRUV6
- Publisher : Harper Business; 1st edition (July 19, 2011)
- Publication date : July 19, 2011
- Language : English
- File size : 9162 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 316 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #16,435 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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A well-written synopsis of 11 “great” companies and some of their similar characteristics, this is a fun, quick read that is great in terms of party trivia and information… but it’s tougher to judge if you’re looking for more of a business how-to. Partially, it has aged poorly — many of the companies selected have since had meltdowns of epic proportions (for example: Fannie Mae, Circuit City), and the “how to” part of the book feels generalized and far more subjective than the methodology/selection criteria would have you believe. Still, you’ll learn quite a few fun facts about how some of these business started and/or converted to become the giants they are today.
The main premise of this book is that though there are many very successful, long-lasting corporations out there (Coca Cola, GE, etc), there are a handful of companies that transcend just long-lasting durability, and become truly “great” companies. The selection criteria (mostly explained in the appendices) identified 11 “great” companies out of 1,435 analyzed, mostly via things like stock performance (the companies chosen were at about market average for about 15 years, and then jumped to being about seven times better than market over a period of 15 years, hence the title: good to great).
The idea was to then take a more in-depth look at the 11 companies to see what similarities existed, and to then compile kind of a how-to in terms of what distinguishes the greats. Some of the ideas explored are things like:
1. The Level 5 Leader — Collins proposes the idea of a leadership hierarchy of skills; a Level 5 leader is a dual personality of sorts — someone who is basically modest, but willful and stubborn, almost introverted and shy, but simultaneously fearless (this is kind of the opposite of say the CEO-centric view where Apple was in part defined by Steve Jobs as a leader and a personality, Bill Gates by Microsoft, etc). He argues that the Level 5 leader is someone who does what’s in the best interests of the company — no matter what (preparing for crises before they happen, sacrificing part of their lives often, etc). Counter examples given are leaders who so define the role that they’re unable to appoint successors, or have a successful successor — the argument here is about systematic management, filling the role that the company needs, for the good of the company, and almost without personal ego.
2. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop — Even though the media sometimes portrays changes as though they’re instantaneously effective or immediately impactful, in reality, most companies that are successful slowly build momentum via a flywheel effect, constantly confronting the “brutal” truths and having faith that with discipline and continued effort and momentum, a breakthrough will happen. The Doom Loop is when there is a lack of patience that leads to continued cycles of new leaders, new directions, and new innovations, without ever waiting to see something through.
3. The Hedgehog Concept — This is the concept of doing one thing really, really well. Here the argument is that you don’t have to be the best at everything, that Walgreens became a great company by getting rid of its restaurants (it had over 500 at one point) and focusing on what it was strongest in — being a convenient drug store. It focused on location, location, location (always being on a corner, for example), offering 24-hour pharmacies, flu shots, expanding into poorer neighborhoods, and being an almost pervasively convenient option for its customers. It basically asks companies to think about what they can really be best at and specialize a little, find something they are passionate about that they can truly excel at.
As I’ve said, it’s an interesting read. and in terms of things to make you think, there’s a lot of good cocktail party fodder — is it better to have an invisible leader who sacrifices everything for their company? Or is there benefit to having a targeted leader to focus on (the Zuckerbergs and Jobses, leaders who are synonymous with a company’s image). But if you’re reading it now, more than a decade after its initial publication, it’s hard to take it as seriously when it talks about Fannie Mae (which has gone through a federal takeover/bailout) or Circuit City (which has filed for bankruptcy) or even Wells Fargo, which has had its share of legal and financial troubles. Also, though it’s a nice retroactive, backwards-looking book about what has helped 11 particular companies, it’s hard to know how much is truly applicable going forward. So in that sense, it’s less of a how to go from good to great, and more of an interesting, almost historical read, about how these particular companies made the jump (and then sometimes plummeted back).
Comparisons to Other Books:
I had a similar experience with Collins’s Built to Last, which was supposed to detail the successful habits of “visionary” companies. It was a fun synopsis of a six-year research project by Stanford, and I learned all sorts of interesting trivia, but, as with many books that are backwards-looking studies of still-in-business companies, it’s sometimes hard to take the overarching messages seriously knowing how some of the chosen companies have performed since publication. I think these are great books if you’re looking to read something interesting about the business world, but I’m not sure I’d really call them instructive per se.
I. Discipline People
a. Level 5 Leadership
b. First Who... Then What
II. Discipline Thought
a. Confront the Brutal facts
b. Hedgehog Concepts
III. Discipline Action
a. Culture of Discipline
b. Technology Accelerators
I believe by organizing the book in this matter enabled me to really understand the severity of the critical components and how their relationships if applied will in allow a good company to become a great company. Starting with Discipline People, Collins conducted and analyzed his research by introducing the types of leaders you would find in a great company versus those in a just a good company and the characteristics that these great leaders possessed, such as humility and will. They lead with the interest of the company and not for their own selfish reasoning. Next was the First Who ...Then what which discuss getting the right people on board and the wrong people out. Collins states, "People are not your most important assets. The right people are." Collins stresses the importance of first getting the right people in the right places in your company and weeding out the wrong and then figure out where your company wants to go.
Next is the Discipline Thought, within the subset of discipline thought a company must possess the ability to confront the brutal facts and not live in denial. Being able to do this will allow the company to stay updated and proactive when faced with making decisions. Collins presented a methodology for the companies to be able to face the truth. He says an organization must lead with questions not answers, engage in dialogue and debate, and use the "red flag mechanism" where anything that is red flagged is information that cannot be ignored and must be handled immediately. Collins also mentioned under the category of discipline thought is the Hedgehog Concept. The Hedgehog Concept is about a Fox and Hedgehog, where the Fox (good companies) knows a lot about variety of things whereas the Hedgehog (great companies) knew a lot about one thing. Being hedgehog is more beneficial for both the company and the individual because it the clarity drives focus and direction whereas the fox has neither one direction nor focus which can backfire later down the road.
Lastly, having discipline people with discipline thoughts will drive to discipline action which uses the culture of discipline and technology as another tool to help transform the company from good to great. Collins also refers to the Flywheel Concept. He says that a good to great company never happens all at once it take a lot of effort and time to get it going, like the flywheel. The flywheel requires a lot of pushing to get it to turn and after x amount of time it will begin to gain momentum.
Throughout the book Collins gives great examples for each discipline and its component and how it either went from good to great or continued to be good. Along with the examples Collins provides pleather of diagrams and charts in the appendix, which becomes a great reference for the reader and creates a better understanding of what is needed to go from a good company to a great company. Generally the book is a very easy read which makes it that much more interesting to want to apply to your company or even for yourself. It takes the feeling of the impossible away, like Collin stated, "We believe that almost any organization can substantially improve its stature and performance, perhaps even become great, if it conscientiously applies the frame work of ideas we've uncovered." Overall if you are looking to transform your company, Good to Great is a read that I highly recommend.
Top reviews from other countries
This book is very concise and full of interesting case studies. It was one of the few occasions when I wished the book could have been a bit longer.
Well researched, well written, well done!
Here are some of the learnings I will be taking away from this book:
• All Good to great (“GTG”) companies had a Level 5 leader
• Level 5 leaders consistently exhibit humility, modesty and an ability to reign in their ego.
• Many companies are drawn towards outgoing egocentric leaders and this is often the wrong choice.
• Level 5 leaders are more interested in something larger and more lasting than their own career
• GTG leaders concentrate on hiring the right people before deciding on strategy
• Don’t compromise when hiring. If you’re not confident then keep looking
• When someone needs to leave the company act quickly
• Give your best people the best opportunities and not your biggest problems
• GTG management teams have rigorous debates and aren’t afraid to share their views. But when a decision is made they act as one
• GTG companies ensure information flows give management the right facts to manage the business effectively
• GTG companies foster a culture where employee’s views are heard and acted upon
• GTG companies review failures without negative consequences for the people involved
• Figuring out how to motivate people is a waste of time. If you hire the right people they will motivate themselves.
• Good to great companies did one thing exceptionally well and stuck to it (the hedgehog process)
• GTG companies developed their strategy from a deep understanding of what they could be world class at. This was not a goal or intention but an understanding of reality
• GTG companies typically focussed on one KPI e.g. profit per customer
• GTG companies were incredibly disciplined and did not waste time and money on unrelated activities and acquisitions
• GTG companies used technology as an accelerator of, not creator of, momentum
• Careful consideration should be given to whether a given technology fits with your hedgehog concept
• GTG companies often looked like an overnight success from the outside but in reality they were long in the making and a result of persistent action over a long period of time.
• Preserve core values and purpose while strategies and practices endlessly adapt with the changing world
The final selection consists of 11 good to great companies (Selected from 1435 Fortune 500 companies) and 17 comparison companies that could not qualify. The primary selection process consisted of baselining the 'good to great' companies at three times the market for fifteen years including 15 years of good performance (1.25 time the general stock market) preceding the transition while the company had to be an established, on going company, not a startup.
Pretty strict criteria that has led to some eye opening findings. Most of the findings can be browsed by reading the reviews on the Amazon .co.uk and .com sites.
A MUST READ BOOK for all aspiring and current leaders.
A stunningly enlightening study of winners and losers
As Exec Chairman of a pan-European SME, the easy read of this book has refuelled my determination to (try and) get it right. Unfortunately, bad companies managed by Rambo like individuals remain the norm on this side of the pond... Still very refreshing read about what works and what doesn't...