Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Good to Great

Who?

Any manager or aspiring entrepreneur.

When?

Now.

Why?

This book should be required reading for every business student.

Best Quote

The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline.

Review

I first read this book a few years ago. Then, I revisited it recently and was impressed the second time as the first.

The main thrust of this book is that many companies never become great simply because they are good, and good is good enough. They lack the discipline, vision, and leadership to make that leap from merely good to clearly great. This is something that you can learn a lot from, especially when you recognize that it is all too common for us to want to change things and to want to do great, but then to compromise and accept good instead.

Collins addresses several characteristics of great companies in his book, and you can learn a lot just from reading about them:

  1. Level 5 Leadership – There is something that separates the best leaders from everyone else. These people are necessary for a company to become and remain great.
  2. First Who… Then What – I can’t tell you how much in my career I have stressed to others to focus on hiring, or gathering, the right people and only then training them to do the things you need or even leveraging the skills they have, but what happens? They always hire for skill first and fit second, and things fall apart. Great companies gather the right people first.
  3. Confront Facts – You have to have unwavering faith to realize greatness.
  4. The Hedgehog – If you can’t be the best at something, then that something can’t be the basis of your business.
  5. A Culture of Discipline – Great companies and great people have discipline. When your people have discipline, you don’t need a hierarchy.
  6. Technology as an Accelerator – Great companies use technology to facilitate greater improvements and growth. They never use it as the primary means of a transformation though.
  7. The Flywheel – When you first start pushing a flywheel, it takes a lot of work. If you give up, it slows down and stops, but if you keep pushing, it slowly speeds up until you’re barely pushing anymore. This is how great companies maintain greatness. They push hard on the flywheel, and while they don’t stop once it’s moving, they recognize that they’ve already invested the time in getting it working for them.

Last Word

Good to Great was referenced by a lot of people when I was studying for my MBA, and for some stupid reason, I didn’t read it. I should have, and if you haven’t read it, you should by it now and get started. In fact, get the ebook or audio version so that you can get started now. Jim Collins’ book is worth that much.

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