Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good-to-Great & Built to Last

Jim Collins wrote the book, "Good To Great" to illustrate the management hype - the cult of the superhuman CEO.

His research explains how a good company, mediocre companies, and even bad companies are able to achieve enduring greatness.

Jim started his writing with the caption: 'Good is the Enemy of Great'.

This is some of what he wrote:

We expect that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that "they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats - and then they figured out where to drive it."

The old adage "People are your most important asset" turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset 'if you got the wrong people' (emphasis added). The right people are.

Few people have the culture of discipline.. and... when you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great performance.

Good-to-great companies never use technology as the primary means of igniting transformation. Paradoxically, they pioneers the application of carefully selected technologies.

Good-to-great CEOs didn't talk about themselves. They'd talk about the company and the contributions of their executives and would deflect discussion about their own contribution.

""The comparison leaders did just the opposite. They'd look out of the window for something or someone outside themselves to blame for poor results, but would preen in front of the mirror and credit themselves when things went right.""

Does this statement sounds familiar to you? How often did you read this statement in our daily press and news? It is just unshockingly believable in our society and governmental system.

Jim continued: 'The great irony is that the animus and personal ambition that often drive people to positions of power stands at odds with the humility required for Level 5 Leadership. The term Level 5 refers to the highest level in a hierarchy of executive capabilities that was identified in the research. Level 5 Leaders are modest and willful, humble and fearless. They are ambitious to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves."

Jim conclusively summarized up his research of the Good-to-Great companies:

  • To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence.
  • Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructuring will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

"Some of the key concepts discerned in the study will fly in the face of our modern business culture and will upset some people," Jim commented.

The book is a good read. But I would suggest that, for those who had not read his earlier book, 'Built To Last', it would be better to read that first.

Built To Last is a fantastic research project for Stanford University Graduate School of Business by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras who took 18 exceptional top companies and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors.

In the Author's note (2002 Edition), they wrote: "Creativity often sprouts from frustration. Built to Last is not fundamentally about building to last. It is about building something that is worthy of lasting - about building a company of such intrinsic excellence that the world would lose something important if that organization cease to exist. It's about a Global Visionary Company with timeless core values and purpose beyond just making money.

Those who built the visionary companies wisely understood that it is better to understand "who you are" then "where you are going" - for where you are going will almost certainly change. It is a lesson as relevant to our individual lives as to aspiring visionary companies and most of all, relevant to our governmental system of administration.

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