Book Review: "Good to Great" by Jim Collins

Cover shot of the book "Good to Great" by Jim Collins
Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap ... And Others Don't is a collection of case studies put together in an attempt by Jim Collins and his research team to quantify what it takes to make a good company great. The group looked at a number of companies which exceeded the growth of their competitors and of the overall market for fifteen years or more and selected eleven as being the best examples.

Each of the eleven companies which met their "good to great" criteria had some key things in common. Collins isolated six characteristics found in each company which helped put them over the top from good to great and describes them in detail in the book:
  • Disciplined People
    • Level 5 Leadership - a great leader who built a great team. A servant leader with an eye for talent and team building and setting up their people for success.
    • First Who ... Then What - the Level 5 leader gathered around him or her the best people available. They were selected because of their work ethic as well as skills and abilities. They got "the right people on the bus and into the right seats."
  • Disciplined Thought
    • Confront The Brutal Facts - the leadership team looked at the reality of their situation: their business and the marketplace, and made decisions which helped them succeed no matter what. It was not "whitewashing" the truth or "pollyanna" thinking, but a knowledge they will prevail no matter what.
    • The Hedgehog Concept - the business found its core - what they could be excellent doing and stuck to it. There wasn't a lot of side business or growth through acquisition; rather, the team stuck with what they did best.
  • Disciplined Action
    • Culture of Discipline - the members of the team worked together for the mutual success of the organization. Because each person was trusted to do their part so bureaucracy and micromanagement were virtually eliminated.
    • Technology Accelerators - these days people latch on to technology for the sake of having the "latest and greatest." These great companies evaluated technology and only chose what would help them do business better.
The book itself is easy to read and digest and has a lot of takeaway lessons anyone can start using today. While leading a company to make the jump from good to great may take some time, there are many things anyone can begin doing to get started on the path. The lessons in the book are not only for corporate leaders, but for anyone who wants to learn more about team building, leadership for success and personal growth.

For the statics geeks there are plenty of charts and numbers to help you understand the research in detail and how Collins and company chose the corporations for the study. There is also a couple math proofs to show the companies they chose for the study weren't just flukes, but genuinely went from good to great.

It's also important for those who take the lessons in the book and start down the path from good to great to keep up the work. One of the companies of the eleven singled out for study was Circuit City. They had a great plan, great leadership and a company which was outperforming their competitors by a large margin. Given that advantage, should they not have prevailed through the recent economic downturn and competition from Best Buy and such? Although I don't know for sure, but I would guess the leadership in the company failed to keep working in the six areas outlined above and eventually fell behind. It would certainly be an interesting follow up study.

I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn more about leadership and team building. There are lessons for everyone regardless of their place on the corporate ladder.

Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap ... And Others Don't by Jim Collins (Amazon Affiliate Link)

You can get more information about Jim Collins on his web site.

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