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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 March 11, 2002
Yet another in a seemingly unending cycle of managment "advice" designed to abdicate responsibility from those who are being paid to manage, from managing.
I, personally, have always suspected that about 90 percent of this "advice" emanates from an island off the coast of Maine, where about a dozen of these management "experts" grind out the latest "management du jour" psychobabble, wait for it to be gobbled up, then return to the island and grind out some more, thus perpetuating the cycle.
Anyone who's been employed more than ten years or so has certainly had the misfortune of trying to keep a straight face through at least two or three of these management "revelations." It would be interesting to be able to question these "experts" a year or two after their recommendations have long since been forgotten. Of course, by that time, they're back on the island, grinding out more pap.
If managers weren't either too lazy or too stupid to do the job they're paid to do (manage), it would mercifully exhaust the market for this entire genre of stuff. Too many people in positions of authority, however, seem to blindly accept it is as credibile and people can be adversely affected as a result.
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on August 5, 2002
This is another in a long line of overly simplistic books which purport to identify what all management books purport to identify, namely, what is great management? The conceptual errors here legion:
Firstly, if such a thing could be put in a little book all companies would be great.
Secondly, the author starts by singling out and dealing only with the magic 11 fortune 500 companies his huge staff could identify based on earnings growth over the last 15 years, but "best" really has no meaning in this context. For example, he starts with fortune 500 companies which automatically means they are all the best to begin with given they are the largest companies to have survived among the millions that come and go each year. Don't all fortune 500 companies have tremendous growth of some kind oven some 15 year period in their history?
Who can say that the magic 11 have great management and GM does not even though GM is huge compared to any of the magic 11? Did Mr. Collins do an experiment to prove his thesis? Without access to the earning numbers can he identify a great company from the million of choices? This guy should be making his money in the stock market rather than by selling books.
GM is a mature company in a mature market with moddest earning growth, but are they better or worse managers than Microsoft which has enjoyed tremendous earning growth largely because they got into a business they didn't even want (operating systems) that fortunately provided a base on which huge earnings grew. In fact it is a business school axiom that the companies who are the most successful lose to their own arrogance in the end. This is how IBM missed small computers and how GE & RCA missed big computers.
The team's findings about the importance of good leadership, of choosing the right people, of staying focused on a simple message seems laughable. Had the previous wisdom been that bad leadership was the path the higher earnings?
The author talks about making a commitment, and having passion toward what you are doing in the context of describing how Kimberly Clark turned heroically away from some of its businesses toward what they were passionate about: Kleenex. It clearly seemed that the author could not understand that real passion does not exist toward Kleenex or that you could not attract and motivate talent if you required a passion for Kleenex. Money, prestige, and competence are more likely to motivate managers.
The research team's findings about the importance of good leadership, of choosing the right people, of staying focused on a simple message seem even worse as the author feebly tries to explain Walgreen's success versus Eckerts, CVS Rite Aid, and the 100s of others that have tried to put simple cookie cutter drug stores on every corner. Didn't the also-rans see what Walgreen was doing? Didn't they hire Walgreen Management, didn't they copy them, and try harder and harder as they desperately sank to 2nd and 3rd and then into bankruptcy? Figuring out why Walgreen won may be a little like figuring why the Beatles won? Perhaps because Paul was so cute, and Walgreens name, logo, colors, and ads were just a tiny bit cuter than the competition. We don't know and never will.
Circuit City is one of the Magic 11. But, its stock is off 66% so far this year. Who wants to bet it will be included in the next management guru book? IBM, Xerox, and Polaroid were all hailed has having great long term management but they all died (well, almost) because they happened on great products, not great managements. While their products were great, book entrepreneurs made a fortune talking about their managements.
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on March 14, 2004
Imagine 1,024 people participating in a coin-flipping exercise.
Those who flip heads "win," those who flip tails are eliminated.
Now let's assume that the coin-flipping adheres to the norm--that is, a flip yields heads half the time, and tails half the time. And let's do the flip-and-elimination exercise 10 times.
At the end, out of 1024 competitors, you should have one winner who's flipped 10 consecutive heads.
Is the winner great at flipping heads? No. Is the winner lucky? No. Is the winner inevitable? YES.
And that's the problem with Jim Collins' dunderheaded exercise--he's wowed by the winning coin flipper's success. He can't wait to interview the flipping champion, pore over the data to recreate the sheer drama/moments of truth surrounding each individual flip, find the subtle nuances beneath the flipper's consistent performance, and draw universally applicable lessons from the coin flipper's astounding success. I mean, how can anyone argue with TEN CONSECUTIVE flips of heads, right?
Um, actually everyone should argue with it, Jimmy.
Just like Tom Peters did fifteen years before with In Search of Excellence, Collins sanctifies his business winners, completely overlooking the fact that 1) plenty of business losers followed IDENTICAL strategies and still lost and 2) if you have any criteria for excellence that generates more than zero companies pulled from a universe of more than zero companies, then one or more companies MUST, by definition, make the cut, which leads us to 3) so what?--without a statistically rigorous analysis, there's a fairly serious possibility that a number of companies are making the cut RANDOMLY. Collins really stumbles on this last one--without statistical proof, not only can't he distinguish between Good and Great, he can't even make the call between Good and Kind of Random, Dude.
Like Collins' masquerade, Peters' book was a big hit, but followers of Peters soon ran into the Law of George Bernard Shaw--Time Wounds All Heels; most of the companies Peters championed in his book quickly floundered. Some of Collins' sainted companies are already floundering as well...
Books like Good to Great prey on the fact that you napped through statistics--if you'd been caffeined up during those dull lectures, you'd have remembered the fallacy of composition (the coin flipper's exercise), the distinction between random outcomes and relevant ones, and the enormous difference between what's causal and what's coincidental.
Look, there's nothing new in business: there are only a few basic strategies, and only a few macro and microeconomic truths. Ever notice how fads like supply side economics, the Japanization of America, the endless bull market, the end of history, The New Economy and the Macarena all seemed to collapse under the weight of basic market concepts you already knew?
So SNAP OUT OF IT, gulp down that double espresso, go back to your old and boring (but still accurate and useful) Michael Porter, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Benjamim Graham, and Burton Malkiel, and stop chasing misallocated or downright blockheaded metaphors from Who Moved My Cheese, The Art of War and poor, misunderstood Charles Darwin, and for God's sake, please take a pass on this Three Card Monte of a book.
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on September 28, 2003
If I were giving out stars for book titles I'd give this five - it's perfect. The content however is far less than that. The "research" is at best questionable and further, there is nothing new here. If you are among the many looking to move from good to great (and aren't we all) and hope to find the answers in this book you will be disappointed. Pop management books are easy to find and even easier to sell - do your research, there are better resources out there.
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on July 31, 2002
rather then real insight and ideas.
WARNING: Those who gave this book more then 2 stars are the same same business people who made "Who Moved My Cheese" a best seller.
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on March 15, 2012
In Built to last, The Economist writes about one of the phoney gurus that the US is good at producing: Jim Collins. We agree when they write: 'This is not to say that Mr. Collins's insights are worthless; merely that they are less robust than he suggests. Most business books would profit from a bit more rigor. Mr. Collins's might profit from a bit more willingness to admit that, like all management gurus, he is dealing in clever hunches rather than built-to-last scientific discoveries.' It remembers me of a study published in the Academy of Management Perspectives in 2008. The authors wrote:'With sales of more than 4.5 million copies, Good to Great by Jim Collins provides an inspiring message about how a few major companies became great. His simple but powerful framework for creating a strategy any organization can use to go from goodness to greatness is certainly compelling. However, was Collins truly able to identify 11 great companies? Or was the list of great companies he generated merely the result of applying an arbitrary screening filter to the list of Fortune 500 companies?' To test the durability of his greatness filter, they conducted a financial analysis on each of the 11 companies over subsequent periods. They found that only one of the 11 companies continues to exhibit superior stock market performance according to Collins' measure, and that none do so when measured according to a metric based on modern portfolio theory. They conclude that Collins did not find 11 great companies as defined by the set of parameters he claimed are associated with greatness, or, at least, that greatness is not sustainable. Collins Studies are of the same humbug that the one published in 1982 by two others phoneys gurus, Peters and Waterman, in their book In Search of Excellence. Nothing in the book has supported any serious financial review. The worst of it all is that colleagues in business schools use this kind of books in their teaching.
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on June 27, 2002
Desperately thrashing around for insights, Jim Collins commits every sin of disinformation--misapplying metaphors, falling prey to fallacies of composition, insisting correlations are causalities, and, in general, becoming so entranced with hindsights that he fails to notice the utter uselessness of his ideas. His lessons have no predictive value or management currency whatsoever.
This is deep, deep quackery, a Who Moved My Cheese for people who spend all day in meetings trading consultantspeak, thinking they're working ("adding value"). For all its self-congratulation, Good to Great never moves beyond that old marketing joke--if it worked, then in retrospect, it was a good idea.
In a few years, Jim Collins will be every bit the joke that Tom Peters is today. Run, don't walk from this book.
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