Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"Good to Great" Is Even Better Than Advertised

I am reluctant to jump on bandwagons - often to the point of stubbornness and mule-headedness. I admit to even being - on rare occasion - a bit of an elitist. Just because something is a "best seller" does not guarantee that it is good. So, sometimes, it takes me a while to recognize the obvious, and consent to take advice from people whose opinions I have come to trust. Thus, it took about five such individuals asking me: "Have you read Good To Great by Jim Collins?," before I capitulated and read the book.

It was well worth waiting for.

I think most people in the business world who have been paying even minimal attention are aware of Good to Great to some degree. If you have not yet read this book, I implore you not to wait as long as I waited before sampling the nectar that oozes from the pages of this study in greatness.

What I love most about the book is that despite his best attempts to avoid pointing to "leadership" and "the right people" as explanations for why some companies are on a different planet than the rest of the business universe, the facts would not let Collins escape these conclusions in the end. In the few weeks since I finished reading Good to Great, I have found myself quoting from this book more often than any other business book since The Tipping Point. In discussing staffing challenges with a client, I often find myself citing an example from Good to Great. In talking with a candidate about her next career move, I regularly find myself talking about one of the eleven Good to Great companies as the kind of place where she would most likely feel most fulfilled and make the strongest contribution.

Here are a few salient points to serve as tidbits to whet your appetite to read the book yourself:

* Great companies are led by a "Level 5 leader" who subjugates his own ego to the greater good of building a company that will continue to thrive under his successor.

* Great companies and their leaders make their first priority assembling the right team. "To be clear, the main point . . . is not just about assembling the right team - that is nothing new. The main point is to first get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) before you figure out where to drive it." p. 44.

* Great companies understand the difference between leadership and management. "The good-to-great companies built a consistent system with clear constraints, but they also gave people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system. They hired self-disciplined people who didn't need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people." p. 125.

What I like best about this book is that the companies chosen as Good-to-Great companies are all led by individuals who have figured out that it is all about people - hiring the right people, treating them right, equipping them well, holding them accountable in ways that are not dehumanizing, taking succession planning seriously. As an executive recruiter and as a student of leadership and staffing issues, I could not agree more with Collins' conclusions that these are the hard skills and intangibles needed to grow a great company.

Enjoy reading or re-reading this book.



Anonymous said...

Bus seats, fly wheels, hedgehogs, Oh My!

These are mantras that I am eager to use daily in my personal and professional decisions!

- David Cutler

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