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. The second part is appendix 6 where he gives brief case studies on IBM, Nucor and Nordstrom using the "Good to Great" framework to demonstrate how they went from struggling companies back to greatness. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in an honest assessment of either business success or success principles in general.
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