I thoroughly enjoyed reading the research conclusions made by Jim Collins in this book. “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t” is a book a shied away from for a very long time because I tend to avoid business oriented books. Stock market numbers mean little to nothing to me and most percentage and corporate data is way over my head.
However this book did not have me thinking “please speak English” the entire time like I was expecting to. In fact, I think a lot of the findings Collins points out are pretty applicable to more than just corporations. His book is broken down into chapters that each deal with a separate finding/topic. The arrangement of topics looks like this:
The first two chapters address “people” issues – leadership and getting the right team. The second two chapters address “thought process” issues – confronting brutal facts and discovering what you are good at. And the last two chapters address “action” issues – deciding what to do and how to incorporate technology.
At least the first six chapters make points that I think can be applied not just to the building of a great corporation but the building of a great ANYTHING. They are pretty straightforward, with the findings building on each other as momentum is gained into greatness. The points I loved in this book that I think hit home the hardest are:
1) Greatness does not happen overnight, it is something that you continue to work at. People often don’t notice a company until it is already great which sells short the amount of time and energy that was put in getting to the place where they began to receive public recognition.
2) It is important to be disciplined with yourself – in confronting brutal facts and in understanding things that you need to stop doing in order to be successful as much as the things you should start doing.
Collins spends the final chapter explaining why anyone should strive to be great in the first place noting that it takes no more suffering than it would take to be just good. “It is no harder to build something great than it is to build something good,” he writes. And his second reason is that it will give one meaning and purpose in life to strive for greatness. But to this I say, why the hell wouldn’t you want to be great? Maybe this goes along with his second argument to work towards greatness, but to be just good sounds so…mediocre. I personally do not plan on spending my entire life being good enough. But to those who even pose the question “why greatness?” I say, let them answer it for themselves – or never answer it and leave it up those of us who actually want to be great at something to fulfill the roles they never will. After all, not everyone can be great.
Since I haven’t read a large amount of business books, I don’t think I can adequately critique the book except by saying that it’s findings and conclusions are pretty general. This makes them susceptible to interpretation. This critique seemed to me to describe the biggest fallouts of the book, including a failure to conduct thorough research. (“Why Good to Great Isn’t Very Good, 2006.)
I personally enjoyed the anecdotes Collins’ includes about Stockholm and John Wooden and Walt Disney and the handful of corporations he chose to focus on for his study. It was a good read and I understand why it was on the Bestseller list for such a long time. But if you wanted to get the ideas without all the fluff you could just read all the chapter summaries at the end of every section. Here is an article at Jim Collins website that goes more in depth about the findings he discusses in the book.
Overall Score: 6, informative and enlightening.