Sunday, August 20, 2006

Good to Great

If there's but one business book you ever read in your life, Good To Great should be on the shortlist. Jim Collins, a former Stanford Graduate School of Business professor and his research team discovered that there are seven similarities that all successful organizations encompass. I highly recommend this book because its points are relevant to not only for profit businesses, but also libraries and similar organizations. Here are the books main findings:

(1) First "Who", Then "What" - Hire the right people, then formulate a plan. It sounds strange, but based on his research of American companies, Collins unveils the fact that all the successful ones are run by Level 5 Leaders, humble individuals who put their organizations before themselves, who would do anything and everything to achieve success for their company, not for themselves. Although they are often shy and humble, they possess steel determination to get things done. Such people will recruit similar individuals; moreover, once the team is created, the leader will set up their successors for even greater success in the next generation.

(2) Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lost Faith) - Success is not achieved in one day. All successful companies were built over a long stretch, day by day, bit by bit. Using the Stockdale Paradox an analogy, companies that drop out are those who are most optimistic, who often base their strategies on lofty goals within shortest timeframe possible. The successful ones don't use a clock to time progress; they use patience and faith, never knowing when they'll achieve success, but only that it will happen eventually.

(3) The Hedgehog Concept - When the right and patient people are on board, only then can a plan be formulated. Taking Isaiah Berlin's analogy of the hedgehog and the fox, in which the "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing," Collins argues that great companies have one idea and sticks by it no matter what, whereas mediocre organizations are all over the map and changes directions on a dime.

(4) A Culture of Discipline - When there is discipline, hierarchy is no longer needed. With disciplined thought, the same goes for bureaucracy. Hence, the best companies are those with employees who are hardworking, respectful, and ultimately enjoy what they are doing.

(5) Technology Accelerators - Great companies think differently about the role of technology. They never use it ignite transformation; rather, they apply technology to forward their hedgehog concept, the big overall plan.

(6) The Flywheel and the Doom Loop - Success cannot occur like a revolution; there is never a "defining" miracle moment. Instead, it happens in small increments (like a wheel), turn upon turn, and building momentum slowly and steadily.

(7) Built to Last - Success and greatness are not defined by money. Instead, the goal is intrinsic excellence, simply creating something so that it can endure and be meaningful at the same time . Hence, I find the book intriguing because it is not only limited to businesses. It can be applied to any type of organization. It's worth a read, even if one is not looking to build a corporate dynasty.


Allan said...

A predecessor of Collin's enormously successful book is Robert Waterman and Tom Peter's "In Search of Excellence," which was equally influential in the 1980's. (The book was published in 1982).

I have not read the book (but will do so eventually), but from the book reviews, Waterman and Peter's study is similar to "Good to Great," for both heavily emphasizes on retaining a dedicated staff, a centralized organizational philosophy, and sticking to the game plan.

It's worth a read:

Allan said...

Yet, the main difference is that "In Search of Excellence" discovers that Customer Service is a key element of success for any organization.

In order to understand the business, one must understand the customer. What an interesting yet fabulously similar idea of the information centre/library. Knowing the clientele is still the core of the existence of any institution.