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Summary and book reviews of Good To Great by Jim Collins

Good To Great

by Jim Collins

Good To Great
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  • Published:
    Oct 2001, 320 pages

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Book Summary

To find the keys to greatness, Collins's 21-person research team read and coded 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project. The findings will surprise many readers and, quite frankly, upset others.

The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

  1. Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness.

  2. The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence.

  3. A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology.

  4. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

Chapter One
Good is the Enemy of Great

That's what makes death so hard -- unsatisfied curiosity.
--Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Good is the enemy of great.

And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.

We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good -- and that is their main problem.

This point became piercingly clear to me in 1996, when I was having dinner with a group of thought leaders gathered for a discussion about organizational performance. Bill Meehan, the managing director of the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Company, leaned over and casually confided, "You know, Jim, we love Built to Last around here. You ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
"In an ironic twist, I now see Good to Great not as a sequel to Built to Last, but more of a prequel. Good to Great is about how to turn a good organization into one that produces sustained great results. Built to Last is about how you take a company with great results and turn it into an enduring great company of iconic stature." --Jim Collins

An Introduction

Can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness? And if so, what are the distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great? Using tough benchmarks, Jim Collins and his research team embarked on a five-year pursuit to identify a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results. How great? These companies ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Business Week

One of the top ten business books of 2001.

Publishers Weekly

... many of Collins's perspectives on running a business are amazingly simple and commonsense. This is not to suggest, however, that executives at all levels wouldn't benefit from reading this book.

Booklist - David Rouse

Collins identifies 11 companies that ... demonstrated cumulative returns of at least three times the market over the next 15 years ...What he found would both surprise and fascinate anyone involved in management.

Reader Reviews
Fielding

Improving for Life
This book was very enjoyable to read and very beneficial for anyone going into business. I would recommend everyone to read and apply this book. While I was reading this book, I found it quite helpful to have a highlighter in hand and notebook ...   Read More

Connie Johnson

Good to Great
Overall a good book

Anonymous

i wnat to know more about culture of disciplineText

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