Author Background: Jim Collins describes himself as “a student of enduring great companies.” His other works include Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, and most recently, Great by Choice (next on my list!). He studies major companies and analyzes why some are so successful.
Who should add it to their reading list: Anyone interested in business, team building, leadership, and creating a successful organizational culture
The Premise: The Good to Great research team identifies companies that make the leap from “good to great” and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. He looks at everything from leadership to technology to determine how these top companies sustained such great results. Finally, he ends each Chapter with key points to demonstrate how these successful behaviors/decisions can be implemented in your organizations.
The Cliff Notes:
- “Good is the enemy of great.” Collins opening line sets up the theme of the entire book — greatness is never achieved through mediocrity. The top companies never see “good” as “good enough.” Instead, they seek to achieve excellence in every area and consistently heighten the level of acceptability.
- It’s not the passionate, vision-hungry, charismatic leader that creates a successful organization. Known as “Level 5 Leadership,” Collins demonstrates that organizations built solely on the passion of a single leader can rarely maintain long-term success. When that leader leaves, the organization rarely continues on a positive trajectory.
- First who, then what. The top organizations look for the best people — period. They don’t look to try to fill positions first. Rather, they identify the best people, get them “on the bus,” and then figure the rest of it out later.
- Know what you are, and what you are not. Too often, organizations get caught up in making products or offering services that don’t necessarily compliment who they are. Collins’ filter is: if you can’t be the best in the world at it, just say no.
- Avoid bureaucracy and create a culture of discipline. If you have an organization of disciplined people, they’ll have disciplined thoughts which translate into disciplined action. Your culture should be bottom-up, not authoritarian and top-down.
- Don’t rely on technology to propel you. (And this book was written in 2001!) Collins demonstrates that the best companies use technology as an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it. This is even more important in our ever-changing digital world! Just think — simply using social media doesn’t make a good company great (or a bad company good). But, using social media well can compliment the services of a well-established organization.
- Successful companies are sustainable. The bottom line is that successful companies don’t rely on a single leader, team, product, or technology to make them great. They are continually engaging in sustainable practices to create long-term success.