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on May 16, 2002
At 210 pages, "Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap and Others Don't" reads very quickly (The last section of "Good To Great" consists of many notes and appendices). The core of the book emphasizes what Collins refers to as a 'hedgehog' strategy that is necessary to achieve greatness. I'm not sure why a 'hedgehog' is necessary to explain such a simple strategy. But, I guess we can live with the rodent analogy.
Collins says great companies are like hedgehogs in that they stick to what they know and can do well. Collins says when a fox attacks a hedgehog the hedgehog curls into a prickly ball and the attacking fox must leave it alone. Then, the fox runs around and tries another point of attack and never learns. The hedgehogs only needs to do one thing that works well and consistently.
In short, after much research and writing, Collins finds the key to business success is functioning within the intersection of three circles.
The first circle represents an endeavor at which your company has the potential to be the best in the world. The second circle represents what your company can feel passionate about. The third circle represents a measure of profitability that can drive your economic success. You must choose to do something that's profitable and know how to focus upon that profitability.
To find the circles, Collins makes the excellent point that you must begin with the right people. Collins emphasizes that the people must come before you decide exactly how your company will achieve success.
We learn that in great companies there is often heated debate about what's best for the company. The culture of great companies is open in the sense that the truth will be heard. That's very different from debating for the sake of protecting private turf and self-aggrandizement.
Collins' research says the CEO's at the time companies become great aren't egotistical business leaders. Rather, they tend to be reserved people who channel their ego into building their companies. Collins is a little vague on exactly how you get other employees and key players to channel their egos into building the company. The hope is that, if you select the right people, they'll do what's best for the company rather than for themselves. I'm not so sure that's always true.
Finding something you can be passionate about is the other key. And, all employees must be passionate about the endeavor. Because most employees won't get jazzed about making the CEO and shareholders wealthy, a company should have a purpose beyond just making money. Collins says a company should have 'core values.'
Collins says it doesn't matter what these 'core values' are, just that they exist. He says Philip Morris is happy to provide the strongest brand recognition of 'sinful' products. Maybe, they're rebelling against political correctness, or health, or whatever. If it works for them, it's cool. Fannie Mae, on the other hand, prides itself on providing mortgages to new, less-affluent homeowners and helping people buy homes. That sounds good, and is probably true, but it reads a little bit like a publicity statement.
Incidentally, the Great companies chosen were: Abbot Labs, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Nucor, Philip Morris, Pitney Bowes, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo.
While many of Collins' observations have insight and are well worth reading, I can't help but feel that certain points are forced to conform to Collins' ideas. For example, Nucor realized it could be the world's best steel manufacturer. Why? Had Nucor failed, I could imagine reading that Nucor tried to run around like a fox. Possibly, this is only the result of needing to fit all Collins' research into a short book, and Nucor had a truly viable reason to believe it could be the world's best steel maker.
As another example, Collins tells us Walgreens spent $100 million to create its own satellite system in an attempt to enhance profit per customer visit. Collins admires this because they used technology to stay focused upon their key ratio of profitability. Of course, the Internet came along and offered easier communication between the stores, so that you can pick up your prescription at any store, even when away on vacation. But, should a drugstore rodent really be messing with satellites? Is that within his inner rodent?
My feeling is that if this had all bombed and Walgreens had not been bailed out by the Internet, Collins would be using Walgreens as a good example of going too far outside what your company can be the best at! I see a hedgehog on the information freeway following the shinny bright lines.
In short:
--Get the right people on the bus. Get the wrong people off the bus. Be sure everyone is in a seat that suits them. Collins says that the right people are your best asset. Let them choose their own song. 99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall, or whatever...
--Let the right people discover something your company can be great at. (This won't always work for ultra-small companies-- by the time you have the right people and are paying them, you'll be out of money before anyone figures out what you should be doing!)
--Choose something that the company can be passionate about. Passion isn't dictated, it's discovered.
--Find your best single measure of profitability. Collins asks: If you could maximize profitability per x, what x would have the biggest long-term impact on your company's success? Then, stay focused on improving that one key ratio.
--Stop making 'to do' lists. Start making "stop doing" lists. Stop doing anything that doesn't fit within your inner rodent.
--Know that you will succeed in the end. Have faith in your company's destiny. But, realize it might take many years that really suck to get there. Collins says you must confront the brutal facts of your company's reality.
Peter Hupalo, Author of "Thinking Like An Entrepreneur"
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on May 23, 2002
If you liked Jim Collins' book, "Built to Last," you will love his follow up called, "Good to Great." This is one of those rare cases, where the sequel is actually better than the original. "Good to Great" is more than a business book. It is a book with principles applicable to many aspects of life. Collins challenges his readers to aspire to greatness rather than the mediocrity of being good. He says, "Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life."
In Collins' study to be considered "great," a company's stock had to earn more than triple the general stock market for fifteen consecutive years. The research found seven keys common with the eleven companies, which were able to make the "Good to Great" transition:
1. LEVEL FIVE LEADERSHIP - They had leaders who were a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
2. FIRST WHO...THEN WHAT - People are not the most important asset. The right people are.
3. CONFRONT THE BRUTAL FACTS - They maintained unwavering faith that they would prevail in the end, and at the same time the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of the current reality.
4. THE HEDGEHOG CONCEPT - Their core business was that at which they could be the best in the world.
5. THE CULTURE OF DISCIPLINE - When a company employs disciplined people hierarchy, bureaucracy, and excessive controls are not necessary.
6. TECHNOLOGY ACCELERATORS - Technology by itself is never a primary, root cause of either greatness or decline.
7. THE FLYWHEEL AND THE DOOM LOOP - Good-to-great transformation never happened in one fell swoop but as a relentless push to breakthrough and beyond.
I like that Collins' work is not from the perspective of a practitioner who models his "how I did it" formula. Such a formula is often based on an extraordinary person in a unique circumstance and, as such, it isn't easily transferable. Neither is it the postulation of an unproven theory by a philosopher. Rather it is the objective conclusion of a researcher, who found what has worked and is reporting it for our benefit. As a pastor, I like the fact that the principles (especially the leadership findings) square with Scripture, and many of them can be directly applied to the local church. I think you will find the same in your occupation or profession. Whether you are a businessman or a person wanting to experience higher levels of achievement and satisfaction in life, I highly recommend "Good to Great."
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on November 23, 2011
Saved from over a year ago - reread my blog post - here were my initial thoughts on Good to Great - its a Game Changer for sure -

So I finished the book Good to Great on the weekend and I have been working through some of the ideas all week' pretty solid material in there. I would strongly recommend anyone in business to check it out.

Here are my highlights from the book, (kinda like a grade 5 book report) these are the main points that stuck out to me as it pertains to my business.

~ Business is like a bus, you have to bring the right people on the bus, that also means getting the wrong people off the bus. Once you have the right on and the wrong off, at that point you can figure out where people will sit. Hire the best possible people regardless of their skill sets, skills can be taught but quality character is tough to find.

~ You need to be doing something you are passionate about

~ You need to be doing something that you can be the best in the world at

~ You need to build a culture of discipline. This means having a to do list and a to dont list.

~ Once you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, pursue it relentlessly, make decisions according to what will get you there' and keep going. Great opportunities will present themselves, but if they don't line up with where you are going, they will kill the momentum of your forward direction.

~ What you don't do is just as important as what you do

So that is what I think anyway' pretty simple, but what a great book' it is sitting in my head like it weighs 400 lbs.
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on November 17, 2002
The book is very well researched and reads very smoothly. At 210 pages, "Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap and Others Don't" reads very quickly. Jim Collins writes in a clear, concise style that uses effective analogies to get his points across. But I gained little from reading this book. The insights are good but not great, they are simply not new. The road to greatness according to Jim Collins is:
1. Get the right people
2. Set the right goals
3. Execute relentlessly
The data mining exercise that Jim Collins put his team through yielded few surprising results, and whatever useful lessons can be drawn from the exercise I can summarize in 10 pages. This is a deep quackery, another "Who Moved My Cheese" for people who spend all day in meetings trading consultant speak, thinking they're working and "adding value".
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on March 30, 2008
Good to Great is a new and different research on the forces that drive change in all types of organizations. Written in textbook style, Jim Collins' book aims to help the reader bring his organization from a good (read average) level of performance to a great one by presenting and analyzing the case of a dozen Forbes 500 companies that have achieved the deed.

According to Good to Great, the first step in achieving greatness lies in the selection of a special, ``Level 5'', manager who will install a climate of passion, debate and performance in his company while remaining modest. Other important factors in becoming great are a management that analyzes and believes in data, a culture of discipline inside the company, a well-defined and well-applied business concept and the creation of a talent-pool. Overall, Jim Collins doesn't invent any new concepts, but shows the importance of basic management ideas in an easy-to-follow manner.

Good to Great concepts are always made recognizable to the reader (by the means of special formatting) and a summary at the end of every chapter enables the reader to quickly grasp the main ideas. The actual text is mostly filled with examples of companies that have successfully or unsuccessfully applied the findings of the author and his research team.

Personally, I have found this book to be very easily applicable in any sort of teamwork. Jim Collins does a good job of condensing the information and saying only what is necessary. This book is often criticized because the chosen companies may have benefitted from a random factor, but I was satisfied with the answers the book gives to these critics. An enjoyable piece of writing I rank as ``great''!
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on September 30, 2003
I can save you the cost of this book:
Companies become great because they figure out who is making money for the company and work hard to keep those people happy. If those people become unhappy they leave and are replaced by second rate employees who at best 'keep things afloat'.
Such as the fall of Fairchild and the Rise of Intel.
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on November 7, 2003
I had to read this book for my university and write an essay on it. If I were to write an essay on this book it would sound too offensive and degrading to Jim Collins. I think this book is absolute crap. So many Americans are in love with it though. I have made notes on nearly every page where he contradicts himself over and over just to make one company sound better than another. Anyone could write this book and abuse data the way Collins does. Save your money and time.
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on November 30, 2015
This book has been on my to read list for a long time partially due to the hoopla and plump ratings it had received. I believe that there are 2 types of reviewers / readers for this book: seasoned readers of business literature of all sorts and casual, novice, students of such literature. I had eagerly awaited for this book thinking that it would open my eyes to something unique or new, however my experience has been a bit different. It's like going to a Gordon Ramsey restaurant, all hyped and full of hope, only to get back a reheated frozen dinner in a plastic container. The book should be a pamflet at best. The cases depicting the "Great" companies are not that "Great" and neither are the companies themselves. Feel free to research them if you have the time. The author waxes poetry about the outstanding talent and " factors " that make a company great however for the most part they lack substance and true originality. I never read any other book by Jim Collins and never will either as I find that he is the type of author that is the " know it all professor ", self assured about his ideas, preaching to the world his gospel like a fake prophet. My advice, don't take the bait, save yourself the money and most importantly the time. There are far better books to read out there or ways to enhance knowledge of the business world. You would think that all the people raving about this book would implement at least 10% of what it says in their day to day activities. Some may even be the leading lights of various organizations. I am curious to see how many of those leaders will surface in the next 10 years and reference this book as their epiphany moment on how to run their business and pinpoint this experience as the pivotal point in transitioning their business from good to great.
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on July 14, 2004
Read it - but maybe buy it used
This books does however ask some good questions about how to go from being good to GREAT such as:
1. What am I(or what is the company) intrinsically passionate about?
2. What is the company\I good at? and does this "thing" come naturally?
3. Finally does this area that was chosen have "GREAT" potential?
On the other hand, here are some questions that I felt were left unanswered:
Can't you be GREAT at two things at the same time?
According to Jack Welch's book, you should strive to be #1 OR #2.
btw: Aren't there three medals awarded in the Olympics?
What about sales? The Mary Kay Company motto is "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." (from her book)
What about creating barriers to entry for competitors? (to protect market share like Carnegie or Rockefeller did)
Why didn't you include MORE on the failures of the Good to Great companies? Not just the failures of the competition. Guys like Edison, Lincoln had many defeats before they found ultimate success.
Doesn't bouncing back from failures have something to do with going from Good to Great?
The author mentions getting the right people in the right seats on the bus and the wrong people off. I believe this is an oversimplification. Age, salary, tenure, unions, hierarchy etc make this a very difficult task to accomplish!!
Yes this book took 5 years to write and was supported by 21 staff researchers BUT I am not totally convinced of the results. (and I liked the first book - Built to Last)
That's why I gave it only 3 stars
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on June 17, 2004
Collins does a great job of displaying the direct results of leadership decisions and character on big business. The book is insightful and well written. There are several assumptions however, for instance: that the reader's desire is to build a big business like Nucor or Walgreens. The book also assumes that the corporate climate of the last 50 or so years will continue into the future. The basic premise of the book seems to be passionate non-diversification. I think this book is helpful but should be balanced with a counter-perspective such as Tom Peters' "Re-imagine." The right answer is likely a little of both.
There is also somewhat of a disconnect (particularly in the audio version of the book) between Collins' dedication to empirical evidence and his passionate presentation of the results as being right. The results of what caused these 11 companies to meet Collins' standards are presented as universally correct with almost moral absolution. This makes it seem less scientific than it claims to be.
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