“Good to Great” is a book written by Jim Collins about the successful transition from being a good company to a great company. What makes this book unique is the extent of research done to find what made companies great. Built from a team effort over five years of work, “Good to Great” reveals the true nature of breakthrough companies. The book was published in 2001 and quickly became a favorite in the business world. New concepts entered the discussions of how to make things better.
The first time I read this book it was part of an assignment back in 2004 for Citrix. Back in that time, it was common to be assigned books to read for the sake of discussion within departments. I read the book and really enjoyed it. It helped to explain mysteries I had always wondered about. About this time, something very unusual happened. My boss told the department to switch to another book. Initially it sounded like there was a lot of excitement about “Good to Great” inside Citrix. Magically, the book was off the reading lists and was not talked about. I still don’t know what happened. There are guesses, but no facts.
The beauty of “Good to Great” is that it was not written to prove theories. It was written to find theories. The research team was stretched to find patterns from large volumes of data. It did not come easy. The cycle of construction and destruction of theories continued during the early development of the project. Only the strongest theories survived.
I am re-reading the book now. It is still fresh and interesting. There are slightly different insights this time. Perhaps it is because I’m reading it from an additional few years of experience.
There is an excellent web site for all the things Jim Collins has been involved in. Jim Collins.com contains large volumes of content to help you understand his books and expand your grasp with writings, and audio. There is even a television program hosted by American Public TV.
How many of you are familiar with this book? Based on the information, where would you place Citrix in the different categories?
To find great companies, the research team search for companies that performed with average returns for fifteen years followed by a transition and then fifteen years of exceeding the market by at least three times. I’m paraphrasing the book but that is the idea of how they found the great companies. Once they gathered together a select number of companies, they then gathered some less successful companies for the sake of comparison. The best match-ups were with companies with similar backgrounds and performance until one hit the transition.
The overall goal was to identify what caused the transition. Along the way, the team identified a number of characteristics that seemed to be common amongst all great companies. These qualities are:
- Level 5 Leadership
- First Who… Then What
- Confront the brutal facts
- Hedgehog concept
- Culture of discipline
- Technology accelerators
This is a partial list. I see this book as key advice for any company that wants to break away from just being average. It really isn’t about looking to your competitors to judge where you should be. It is more about looking inside and deciding that things can be done better regardless of what everyone else is doing.
The pieces described by the book will help to build the model of what will make the most difference to your company. Some of these items seem obvious but only after having read them. Things just sort of align in the mind as you read.
There is too much to cover in one post so I will continue in another one.
I’ll leave you with an audio clip from Jim Collins about facing brutal facts.