Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't by Jim Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I listened to this book basically in one sitting while driving across the country. Having the author read the book, and hearing the whole thing in such a small amount of time really helped me get into the concepts and see how they concepts related to one another. I've seen some critique of this book that it is "just common sense". This way of thinking is silly. If these concepts were common sense then we would see them all around us!
Here is a quick overview of the 7 points that Collins and his team shared on how any organization or business can go from good to great.
First step is: To have A 'Level 5 Leader'
Second Step is: To First decide the Who question and then the What Question.
Third Step is: To understand all the basic facts about the situation and the company
Fourth Step is: To implement the 'Hedgehog Concept'
Fifth Step is: To have Complete Faith and Honesty - Called the 'The Stockdale Paradox'
Sixth Step is: To instill a Culture of DIscipline in the organization
Seventh Step and the Overarching Concept is: To Keep turning 'The Flywheel'
1. The level 5 leader is someone who is not only ambitious, but is very humble. I liked Collins' analogy of windows and mirrors. Level 5 leaders will look out the window for reasons why they are successful, but look in the mirror when confronting problems. On the other hand, non-level 5s will look in the mirror when enjoying success, and out the window when things go south. This chapter was illuminating as I reflected on my best leaders. They were all level 5s, and I can understand much of what they did when leading me because of the way this chapter described behaviors and attitudes of level 5s. They do what is best for the organization, not themselves - every time.
2. Who before What is something I think possible know, but few actually DO. In order to move an organization forward you need the "right people on the bus". Often we know that someone is on the bus that doesn't want to be there, or thinks they should be on the bus but really shouldn't. Collins is not advocating for heartlessly tossing people out of your company if you don't think they should be there, but he does point to the evidence that the good to great organizations took time to see if maybe the people on the bus were in the wrong seats before letting them get off. On the flip side, when hiring we should look first for the right people for the bus before we get over-concerned about what seat they will be in.
3. The Brutal Facts section of the book basically says: "Good to Great companies learn the facts of their market or situation, and then face them head on." It isn't too hard to learn about the facts of your industry, but it is easy to ignore uncomfortable facts. If you have level 5 leaders, and the right people on the bus, you must then confront the brutal facts about where you want to take the bus with what you love to do, what you can do, and what people will support or compensate you to do (the three circles).
4. The Hedgehog concept refers to an old story about foxes and hedgehogs, and basically states that a person or organization should focus on ONE THING (another great book) rather than a cohort of confusing and differing strategies that are never refined or perfected. The people and groups who are faithful to their values and consistent with keeping inside the mission of the organization are the ones that are most successful. Simplicity here, is the ultimate sophistication. As hard times or curve balls in the market come, the hedgehog concept can change, but it is always clear and understood by all parties involved.
5. The Stockdale Paradox was perhaps one of my favorite things discussed in this book. It so well encapsulates the balance and strange blend of optimistic hope and devil's advocate realism. Named after a soldier held in Vietnam for 8 years, the Stockdale Paradox is all about having an undying hope that you will come out on top, while at the same time maintaining the very realistic view of the brutal facts that stand in the way of success.
6. Discipline. It sounds boring and maybe even scary, but this chapter is so important. Discipline culture is essential for personal growth, strength in a company, and so much more. Once you have the right people in the right seats of the bus, confronting the brutal facts and staying focused on the hedgehog concept with an attitude in line with the Stockdale Paradox, THEN you must stay the course! It takes discipline to keep on these things, and not get lazy or sloppy.
7. The flywheel is just a funny way of saying, keep doing all the steps above! Don't expect a big change right away. Small and simple moves will eventually result in large impactful results. Don't give up immediately, but expect this process to take months or even years.
There you have it, the 7 steps. I appreciated the references to the research team and methods, and found the nature of the study to be one of the most convincing things about the book. These are not just citations from other scientists (like we see so often in pop psychology books), but this is a written report from the study Jim Collins and his team carried out themselves over the course of years. I think these principals are universal, and not just a product of the late 20th century. I am excited to practice them over the course of my life.
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I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.