Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by James C. Collins

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't

The ChallengeBuilt to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the verybeginning.But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring grea...

Title:Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0066620996
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:320 pages

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't Reviews

  • Allen
    Nov 18, 2007

    Just (12/21/2011) re-read the book and love the concepts. But I knocked a star off of my rating since during this re-read I felt like the author puffed up the findings and, indirectly, himself. Sure, good-to-great principles seem to be true, insightful, and necessary for a transformation. I even found that re-reading this book helped me to realize I was being quite undisciplined in my use of time (trying to create momentum by doing, doing, doing instead of "unplugging extraneous junk.") But I do

    Just (12/21/2011) re-read the book and love the concepts. But I knocked a star off of my rating since during this re-read I felt like the author puffed up the findings and, indirectly, himself. Sure, good-to-great principles seem to be true, insightful, and necessary for a transformation. I even found that re-reading this book helped me to realize I was being quite undisciplined in my use of time (trying to create momentum by doing, doing, doing instead of "unplugging extraneous junk.") But I don't think Collins has found the gospel and he plays it up to that level.

    I started reading it and then gave it to my boss. I'm currently listening to the audio book but I would like to own a hardcover copy. (2007)

    The concept that has struck me as most applicable (so far), particularly with respect to businesses, is the need to get the right people on the team first and in the right positions, then decide what to do. Managers should not waste time and energy motivating people to excellence. Instead, they should give self-motivating people a vision they can support and work hard to bring to realization. Fewer great people on the team are better than lots of mediocre people. The mediocre people just make extra work for the great people and the net result is "good". It's easier to be great than good.

    Another interesting concept I've been told about, but haven't read about yet, is the flywheel. Progress is made by implementing small changes at opportune times. Momentum is gained slowly and steadily by these small, periodic decisions. The image used by Collins is that of a flywheel with lots of inertia. Each little push eases the flywheel ahead. The wheel starts rotating slowly but as little pushes continue to be made, the wheel picks up momentum and is hard to stop. This concept is seen in the growth that companies like Google have experienced. Google started out as just a slightly better search engine. Small changes at opportune times have turned it into the booming multi-service company that it is today

  • Jamie
    Jul 31, 2008

    This book by Jim Collins is one of the most successful books to be found in the "Business" section of your local megabookstore, and given how it purports to tell you how to take a merely good company and make it great, it's not difficult to see why that might be so. Collins and his crack team of researchers say they swam through stacks of business literature in search of info on how to pull this feat off, and came up with a list of great companies that illustrate some concepts central to the puz

    This book by Jim Collins is one of the most successful books to be found in the "Business" section of your local megabookstore, and given how it purports to tell you how to take a merely good company and make it great, it's not difficult to see why that might be so. Collins and his crack team of researchers say they swam through stacks of business literature in search of info on how to pull this feat off, and came up with a list of great companies that illustrate some concepts central to the puzzle. They also present for each great company what they call a "comparison company," which is kind of that company with a goatee and a much less impressive earnings record. The balance of the book is spent expanding on pithy catch phrases that describe the great companies, like "First Who, Then What" or "Be a Hedgehog" or "Grasp the Flywheel, not the Doom Loop." No, no, I'm totally serious.

    I've got several problems with this book, the biggest of which stem from fundamentally viewpoints on how to do research. Collin's brand of research is not my kind. It's not systematic, it's not replicable, it's not generalizable, it's not systematic, it's not free of bias, it's not model driven, and it's not collaborative. It's not, in short, scientific in any way. That's not to say that other methods of inquiry are without merit --the Harvard Business Review makes pretty darn good use of case studies, for example-- but way too often Collins's great truths seemed like square pegs crammed into round holes, because a round hole is what he wants. For example, there's no reported search for information that disconfirms his hypotheses. Are there other companies that don't make use of a Culture of Discipline (Chapter 6, natch) but yet are still great according to Collins's definition? Are there great companies that fail to do some of the things he says should make them great? The way that the book focuses strictly on pairs of great/comparison companies smacks of confirmatory information bias, which is a kink in the human mind that drives us to seek out and pay attention to information that confirms our pre-existing suppositions and ignore information that fails to support them.

    Relatedly, a lot of the book's themes and platitudes strike me as owing their popularity to the same factors that make the horoscope or certain personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator so popular: they're so general and loosely defined that almost anyone can look at that and not only say that wow, that make sense, and I've always felt the same way! This guy and me? We're geniuses! The chapter about "getting the right people on the bus" that extols the virtue of hiring really super people is perhaps the most obvious example. Really, did anyone read this part and think "Oh, man. I've been hiring half retarded chimps. THAT'S my problem! I should hire GOOD people!" Probably not, and given that Collins doesn't go into any detail about HOW to do this or any of his other good to great pro tips, I'm not really sure where the value is supposed to be.

    It also irked me that Good to Great seems to try and exist in a vacuum, failing to relate its findings to any other body of research except Collins's other book, Built to Last. The most egregious example of this is early on in Chapter 2 where Collins talks about his concept of "Level 5 Leadership," which characterizes those very special folks who perch atop a supposed leadership hierarchy. The author actually goes into some detail describing Level 5 leaders, but toward the end of the chapter he just shrugs his figurative shoulders and says "But we don't know how people get to be better leaders. Some people just are." Wait, what? People in fields like Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Organizational Development have been studying, scientifically, what great leaders do and how to do it for decades. We know TONS about how to become a better leader. There are entire industries built around it. You would think that somebody on the Good to Great research team may have done a cursory Google search on this.

    So while Good to Great does have some interesting thoughts and a handful of amusing or even fascinating stories to tell about the companies it profiles (I liked, for example, learning about why Walgreens opens so many shops in the same area, even to the point of having stores across the street from each other in some cities), ultimately it strikes me as vague generalities and little to no practical information about how to actually DO anything to make your company great.

  • Sandy
    Nov 04, 2008

    I hope I don't get fired for not thinking this was the greatest book ever. Honestly, business books are not exactly my cup of tea. This book started off really interesting. The author talks about habits that great companies use to keep their companies run smoothly. Many of the suggestions the author gives seem very logical -- don't have negative people work for your company, don't try to put your hand in every pot, don't stop doing things that work well and do stop doing things that aren't worki

    I hope I don't get fired for not thinking this was the greatest book ever. Honestly, business books are not exactly my cup of tea. This book started off really interesting. The author talks about habits that great companies use to keep their companies run smoothly. Many of the suggestions the author gives seem very logical -- don't have negative people work for your company, don't try to put your hand in every pot, don't stop doing things that work well and do stop doing things that aren't working, etc.

    I had two major concerns with this book. First was simply the manner in which it was written. The author spent hundreds of pages explaining what could have been explained much more succinctly. It's similar to my thesis. My completed thesis was 60+ pages, but the article I wrote to be published in a journal (which consists of the same material, more or less) was only about 15 pages. I would be more interested in this book if it was written in "journal" form, allowing me to cut out the redundancy. To the author's credit, however, I appreciated that he did give examples, as often I was very confused by his explanation of the concept, and wouldn't have understood without his providing an example they found in one of the companies.

    My second major concern was the methodology. The author utilizes no scientific method for gathering data, but instead utilizes a "panning for gold" approach: throw everything into the pot and see what comes out. That, combined with overwhelming hindsight bias, makes me extremely suspicious of any and every conclusion drawn in the book. While reading this book, I was reminded of one of my undergraduate teachers explaining the advantage that Freud had as an early psychologist: because of his theories, he could not be proven wrong. How do you prove that someone

    in denial? How do you prove that someone

    obsessed with his mother? Likewise, how do you prove that these theories proposed by Jim Collins actually work? Indeed, Collins later predicts, at the end of his book, that any company that STOPS abiding by the principles he outlines will fail. With his "interesting" methodology, I doubt that his principles would have a causal link to either success or failure. I expect that many companies fail, and that many companies are very successful, without regard to his theories. In addition, a problem with his methodology is that he measured "greatness" by a company's sustained stock market value being a certain percentage (150%) above the general market--what about private companies? How can a private company measure greatness if that is the standard?

    So, overall, I enjoyed this book at the beginning and became bored with it by the end. I think there are some good principles that can be pulled out of it, but I fear that some companies will take this book too much to heart and let other important factors slip.

    Rob, please don't fire me. :)

  • Chad Warner
    Apr 19, 2009

    I was hoping this book would give me some guidelines to remember when I start my own business. There were a few good points, but nothing compelling. Reading this book wasn't a very good use of my time.

    Tips from the book:

    First, get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off it), then figure out where to drive. Having the right people in the company is more important than deciding what the company will do, because the right people will help make that decision anyway.

    I was hoping this book would give me some guidelines to remember when I start my own business. There were a few good points, but nothing compelling. Reading this book wasn't a very good use of my time.

    Tips from the book:

    First, get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off it), then figure out where to drive. Having the right people in the company is more important than deciding what the company will do, because the right people will help make that decision anyway. Whether a person is "right" or not depends on their character more than their knowledge and skills. Don't waste time dealing with people who aren't contributing; fire them ASAP.

    Don't waste effort trying to motivate people; the right people are self-motivated. All you have to do is keep from de-motivating them.

    To become great, use the Hedgehog Concept: concentrate on the point of intersection between what you are passionate about, what you can be the best in the world at, and what drives your economic engine. The Hedgehog Concept is named for the simple hedgehog that does one thing well (curling up for defense), and is able to defeat the crafty fox which knows many things but acts inconsistently.

    Ignore "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities unless they fit in the 3 circles of the Hedgehog Concept.

    Don't treat budgeting as allocating amounts of money to activities, but choose Hedgehog Concept activities to fully fund, and don't fund others. "Stop doing" lists are more important than "to do" lists.

    Does the technology fit directly with your Hedgehog Concept? If yes, then pioneer that technology. If not, settle for parity with your competitors, or ignore it.

    Greatness happens as a result of long-term, consistent behavior, not a sudden lucky break or killer app.

  • Riku Sayuj
    Sep 18, 2011

    First and foremost, Good to Great has no breakthrough concepts to offer. Collins is good at inventive metaphors and catch phrases to push concepts through but ultimately there is really nothing counter-intuitive or revolutionary about the results of this study.

    That said, the concepts in the book might still be valuable for managers, CEOs and other professionals. Here is a brief summary of the book and a short tour on how to take your company from Good to Great:

    Think of this as a time-line to be

    First and foremost, Good to Great has no breakthrough concepts to offer. Collins is good at inventive metaphors and catch phrases to push concepts through but ultimately there is really nothing counter-intuitive or revolutionary about the results of this study.

    That said, the concepts in the book might still be valuable for managers, CEOs and other professionals. Here is a brief summary of the book and a short tour on how to take your company from Good to Great:

    Think of this as a time-line to be followed:

    - A self-effacing leader. A humble leader with a strong drive and indefatigable will for perfection. Someone who puts the company over personal success and never clamors for the limelight.

    - So have a Level 5 Leader.

    - Who then picks a great management team - Collins uses the metaphor of finding the right people for the bus and the right seats for them before deciding where the bus is going to be heading towards.

    - So we have the ideal top management in place.

    - Who in turn now brainstorms to figure out a goal/direction for the company after taking into account all the data available, whether good or bad.

    - So they confront all the realities and decide on a direction

    - Which is based on the ability of the company, the passion of the people in it and money making ability of the goal.

    - This is called using 'The Hedgehog Concept' and the '

    '. You have to choose the very intersection of these three circles as your driving direction. You might have a lot of interests/passions, your company might have a lot of money-making options and you might have a lot of competencies - BUT, the

    should be your ONLY core focus.

    [It is called Hedgehog Concept by contrasting hedgehogs to foxes - foxes are wily and know a lot of things, hedgehogs are wise and one thing well. It is the equivalent to the old proverb of '

    ']

    - Once you identify your defining goal using the Hedgehog Concept,

    - Have complete and unwavering belief and faith in this audaciously ambitious goal (to be the best in the world in the direction/field chosen.

    - At the same time maintain complete transparency and exposure to the brutal facts about the environment.

    -

    Keeping faith in the goal even in the face of the direst contrary facts.

    - Keep working very very hard with complete determination and without bravado towards overcoming those contrary facts and obstacles towards the singe goal/direction arrived at earlier.

    - Use the Culture of Discipline and

    with these little steps and successes and then take all caution to not upset the momentum by misguided side steps. - This is the Fly wheel concept.

    Thus with Great Leadership, Great Understanding of Strengths & Weaknesses, Great Confidence, Great Focus, Great Determination and Great Discipline, consistently applied over 15-30 years makes for a great company.

    The whole story can be summarized in this phrase: "

    "

    This diagram also gives a visual summary of the entire book and can be used as a ready reference.

    So, in conclusion, 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins has nothing new to offer but still provides us with a concrete 5-year study and a plausible reason to follow such common sensical things such as finding the right people, understanding what we can best at, believing in ourselves and working hard until success eventually turns up. It is an optimistic and feel-good result that just might be simple enough to be true.

  • Chad Kettner
    Nov 28, 2011

    Here are Jim Collins' seven characteristics of companies that went "from good to great"

    1. Level 5 Leadership: Leaders who are humble, but driven to do what's best for the company.

    2. First Who, Then What: Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go. Finding the right people and trying them out in different positions.

    3. Confront the Brutal Facts: The Stockdale paradox - Confront the brutal truth of the situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope.

    4. Hedgehog Concept: Three

    Here are Jim Collins' seven characteristics of companies that went "from good to great"

    1. Level 5 Leadership: Leaders who are humble, but driven to do what's best for the company.

    2. First Who, Then What: Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go. Finding the right people and trying them out in different positions.

    3. Confront the Brutal Facts: The Stockdale paradox - Confront the brutal truth of the situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope.

    4. Hedgehog Concept: Three overlapping circles: What makes you money? What could you be best in the world at? and What lights your fire?

    5. Culture of Discipline: Rinsing the cottage cheese.

    6. Technology Accelerators: Using technology to accelerate growth, within the three circles of the hedgehog concept.

    7. The Flywheel: The additive effect of many small initiatives; they act on each other like compound interest.

    I really enjoyed this book and think any business owner or entrepreneur would find the book interesting and benefit from focusing on the seven characteristics above - but I should also point out what I consider to be a few of the flaws with the book:

    1. Collins spends a lot of time explaining some pretty common sense stuff. Don't let your ego get in the way of good decisions, don't have the wrong people in the wrong positions in your company, be realistic, etc...

    2. Collins implies a causal relationship when there isn't enough data to determine such a thing, saying that they found x followed by y in all the great companies. And maybe x led to y, but maybe it didn't. We don't know. Without comparing other companies that either had x but didn't produce y, or produced y but didn't have x, we simply don't know if Collins' examples demonstrate lessons that can be repeated for the same success by anybody. It seems to me that there is a strong hindsight bias and a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not all 'good' companies would become 'great' by simply following Collins' advice.

    3. As psychologists have pointed out in books such as "The Invisible Gorilla" and "Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow" - even aiming at "Good to Great" specifically - many business books tend to mistake a personal success story or numerous personal stories as a causal relationship that can be reproduced by anybody when in reality the more likely explanation was that they benefited from a lot of luck and there isn't a simple process of 'do x and you will receive y'.

    4. 11 years after the book was published, the success rates of the "great" companies isn't so great. Were those companies not so great after all? What happened? What changed? At least half of the 11 great companies he identified are no longer doing so great. Circuit City is bankrupt, Fannie Mae went bankrupt/nationalized, Wells Fargo needed a bailout, Nucor's stock and revenue crashed, Pitney Bowes went down significantly, and Gillette is no longer independent. It seems strange that 'greatness' was so easily lost.

    5. Also, a difficulty with his methodology is that he measured a company's 'greatness' by its sustained stock market value being a certain percentage (150%) above the general market. So how does a private company measure greatness with this sort of standard?

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    Feb 19, 2017

    Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't, James C. Collins

    عنوانها: از خوب به عالی؛ از عرش به فرش؛ انتخاب برتری ؛ انتخاب عالی مترجم عهدیه عبادی؛ با انتخاب خود بزرگ شوید؛ با انتخاب خود مهم شوید مترجم متین عربلو؛ بهتر از خوب مترجم فضل الله امینی؛ تعالی مبنی بر انتخاب صحیح؛

    عنوان: از خوب به عالی : چرا برخی از شرکتها جهش میکنند... و سایرین نمیکنند؛ نویسنده: جیم کالینز؛ مترجم: ناهید سپهرپور؛ تهران، پیک آوین، 1383؛ در 301 ص؛ جدول، عکس، نمودار، شابک: 9648148031؛ چاپ چهارم و پن

    Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't, James C. Collins

    عنوانها: از خوب به عالی؛ از عرش به فرش؛ انتخاب برتری ؛ انتخاب عالی مترجم عهدیه عبادی؛ با انتخاب خود بزرگ شوید؛ با انتخاب خود مهم شوید مترجم متین عربلو؛ بهتر از خوب مترجم فضل الله امینی؛ تعالی مبنی بر انتخاب صحیح؛

    عنوان: از خوب به عالی : چرا برخی از شرکتها جهش میکنند... و سایرین نمیکنند؛ نویسنده: جیم کالینز؛ مترجم: ناهید سپهرپور؛ تهران، پیک آوین، 1383؛ در 301 ص؛ جدول، عکس، نمودار، شابک: 9648148031؛ چاپ چهارم و پنجم 1384؛ چاپ هفتم و هشتم 1386؛ نهم و دهم 1387؛ یازدهم 1388؛ شابک: 9789648148039؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، آوین، 1386؛ چاپ سیزدهم 1389؛ هیجدهم 1392؛ موضوع: راهبری، برنامه ریزی راهبردی، تحول در سازمان، مدیریت، نوآوری - قرن 21 م

    عنوان: از خوب به عالی : چرا برخی شرکتها پیشرفت میکنند و برخی دیگر از پیشرفت باز میمانند؛ نویسنده: جیم کالینز؛ مترجم: لیلا رضیئی؛ تهران، آرایان، 1395؛ در 336 ص؛شابک: 9786007133750؛

    عنوان: از خوب به عالی : چرا برخی شرکتها جهش میکنند و بعضیهای دیگر نه؛ نویسنده: جیم کالینز؛ مترجم: صدیقه اشتری؛ تهران، هورمزد، 1395؛ در 350 ص؛ شابک: 9786006959781؛

    عنوان: از عرش به فرش : چگونه شرکت‌های قدرتمند سقوط می‌کنند؟ و چرا برخی از شرکت‌ها هرگز تسلیم نمی‌شوند؟؛ نویسنده: جیم کالینز؛ مترجم: لیلا سالاری؛ تهران، هورمزد، 1395؛ در 270 ص؛ شابک: 9786006958927؛

    عنوان: انتخاب برتری مترجم عبدالرضا رضایی نژاد، تهران، فرا، 1394، در 202 ص؛

    و

    ...

  • Praveen
    Feb 11, 2017

    Though this book is exclusively for the manag

    Though this book is exclusively for the management students and for the corporate guys, I still feel, this book is really very well researched and can be read by them also, who have least interests in companies and businesses.

    This book is a result of hard toil of a large research team of Jim Collins after 'Built to Last'.

    If you read it, you will find the reason why millions of copies have been sold of this. Wall Street Journal's CEO council declared it the best management book they have read.

    This is all about why some companies leap from 'good to great' and others don't !

    Book talks about a kind of 'Level 5 leadership',

    It's important first getting right people on the bus (and wrong people off the bus) and then figure out where to drive it.....then there is Stockdale Paradox in this book, which is equally applicable in any field of life.

    The research done for this book may have taken huge amount of resources and time and people energy, but the key elements of greatness are deceptively simple and straightforward.

    If you are thinking after reading the title of this book.....Why greatness?

    Then the book says, it's almost a nonsense question. If you are engaged in a work that you love and care about, for whatever reason, then the question needs no answer. The question is not why, but how !


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