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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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If you are a leader or desire to be one, this is a must read. He speaks to much more than just trends, but to actual character. As a fairly charismatic person, I found it interesting to see some of the downsides of charisma. I really appreciated his approach to discussing the power of clarity and consistency.
Now that I've read the book, I see it's themes running through so many other books like, "Start With Why". This is a classic and I can not recommend it highly enough.
This book is very well laid out, divided into easy to follow chapters that flow one right into the other; I found myself reading over 20 pages at a time without noticing until I took a break! Collins establishes the framework of success through three stages known as: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Within each of these stages comes two key concepts that build off of each other: Level 5 Leadership, First Who Then What, Confront the Brutal Facts, The Hedgehog Concept, Culture of Discipline, and Technology Accelerators.
Collins does not shy away from starting off strong in his book, saying “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice” (pg. 11). I found this quote profound because I believe that in order to make something more than just mediocre, one must be in an above-mediocre mindset. As an Industrial Engineer, I feel the need to have this mindset of greatness, in order to not only make a product, system, or company good, but GREAT. There are multiple layers found within this book where I could relate many of these proposed tools for a great company into using these tools to gauge for a great life. Even if you are not an Industrial Engineer, or any type of engineer for the matter, not an entrepreneur striving for success, not a CEO of a business trying to take a leap of faith into a huge growth of progress, I believe this book is still a GREAT read for any person! There are numerous lessons within this book that can be relatable to not only business, but everyday life. There is a whole chapter dedicated to figuring out who the right people should be going along with a company, then figuring out where to go with the company; First Who Then What. The First Who Then What shows why setting the correct priorities in any situation is important, and can be related to everyday life by knowing who to let into your life that will help you grow, and who to let go of; once you have the right “team” in your life, then you can figure out What you want to accomplish. Once the tools of greatness has been addressed, Collins completes his book by encouraging the reader to find greatness in all parts of one’s life; “As your work moves to greatness, so does your life,” (pg. 210).
For these reasons already stated, I would highly recommend others to adapt a culture of discipline (also a main idea from the book) to read and get acquainted with Good to Great and keep their passions and lives GREAT.
For our class we had to interview a top level executive of a local company. This was during the deepest part of the recession and many companies were going through very trying times. We were able to interview a second generation President of a very large steel company. The first thing he told us when we sat down was that he had read the book in graduate school and tries to apply these ideas every day. The scheduled one hour interview went on for 4 hours. He had an amazing amount of information on the real world application of the concept and ideas of the book and it really showed me that this book has some great ideas that many companies could benefit from. He really spelled out the foundation of his company and how it has benefited from the ideas provided in the book. Determining his niche, finding the right people and putting them in the right spot, the hedgehog concept, etc. were all contributed to his success and ability to ride out the recession. I highly recommend this book.