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Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't Hardcover – Unabridged, October 16, 2001
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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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Bezos, of Amazon, was a hedge fund manager in the late 1980's. How did he become some a relevant whole seller with a revolutionary way of delivery in the late 90's. This is the clear message that I got from Good To Great. You must be willing to boldly assault the future and at the same time question if this is the right way to go. That way your organizations will not become complacent and our managerial core will be a group of activists and futurists. That's how you keep going from Great To Even Greater. Good To Great is fine. But now you must take the next step.
Jim spoke again this year at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, framing most of the presentation around the 1911 South Pole explorations by Roald Amundson and his rival, Robert Scott. Responsibility, leadership performance, and luck were the major themes. Collin's presentation got me thinking about the book again, and I decided to go back and re-read it. There's a ton of things I missed or forgot over the years, so I am thrilled to have the new learning.
Good to Great is the second in the series by the author, though it's really the starting point to the project (think Star Wars series?). Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies logically follows this one, and then concludes with How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. Last year he released Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, which I have heard is excellent, also.
Early in the book we get a taste of what's coming: "Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice." The companies who made the leap made the choice to be great, and, through rigorous research, interviewing, and vetting, Jim and his team figured out how they did it and anyone else can. This saves us a lifetime of work trying to figure it out - just read the book and apply the learning. The book is very much a roadmap to success, if you have the courage to follow the path. Given that only 11 of 1,435 companies made the final cut, it's easy to see that this is not the path of least resistance, nor is it one for people who choose to argue with the findings. The data speaks for itself: either you choose to use this as a leadership development tool or you choose not to. Either way, you choose.
If you have the desire to be excellent and the will to do the work, along with a healthy dose of humility, this is the book series for you. Take a year to read all four, earnestly apply them in your life, and by this time next year you will be a vastly different person - for the better. Remember, Good to Great is not about doing more and burning yourself out, it's about doing what works and stop doing what doesn't. As the author states on page 208 "If it's no harder, the results better, and the process so much more fun - well, why wouldn't you go for greatness?" Well said, Jim.
Jim Collin’s book is a little out dated as he uses Circuit City as a company that went from good to great. While the store may have prospered and did go to great, it may make future generation doubt the integrity of the concept. He also warns that technology should not be dependent to run a business. There are many small businesses that may see the advantage to this concept; many types of businesses are using technology to run a well working machine. Collin’s reasoning was the fall of the Dotcoms during the early 2000 that caused trouble to many startups at the time. Today, we all know that technology is far more reliable and it is a definite key in improving.
It is unfair, however, to discredit the book due to the fact that the book is a little old. The ideas are unique and excellent for those who are new to the management scene and continuous improvement. It is easy to read and provides steps to admitting that a company is not to their full potential and how to fix those shortcomings.
Pros: The concepts are intuitive and clear. Each one is workable and the examples are great tools for pushing the author's point home. The academic nature of this book helps reinforce the "breakthrough" trends that are identified. Additionally, the book does a good job of personalizing very complex business decisions.
Cons: Far too many of these companies ceased to be great. This information seems almost pointless when one considers (in a vaccum) the current status of these companies.