Going for Great with Jim Collins

Going for Great with Jim Collins

What

”Good to Great” by Jim Collins, 2001.

Published by  Random House Business Books

Bought on Amazon

Thoughts

What takes a company from being merely average to delivering great results, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of contribution to society with its products and services?

Countless books have been published about how to achieve success; many of them centered on particular trends in management thinking. Jim Collins’ book is not trend-prone, but based on lengthy research and analysis. “Good to Great” inspires you to ask yourself and your company a number of tough questions.

Greatness by people

Having the right people onboard is crucial. For leadership positions that means looking for and fostering traits such modesty and humbleness, result-orientation, inspired standards and focus on company longevity over individual careers and tenure. For all employees that main question to ask is whether they fit the company and fit the position they have been assigned within the company.

Leaders on the other end of the spectrum (self-centered, domineering and personally charismatic) are often seen to think no further than their own tenure. This can be played out by the leader only hiring “weaker” employees and by demands of unquestioned obedience. The company may do well, while this leader is at the helm, but subsequently falters because successors have not been prepared to take over once this leader leaves.

Having the right people is the precondition to carrying out the company purpose. Thus people concerns come before concerns regarding what the company will do. The right people require minimum effort for alignment and motivation, as they from the start share and are motivated by the company’s values and purpose.

Greatness by thinking

Having a clear purpose to steer by at all times is a further key issue. Making profits can as such not be defined as the company purpose. Rather it is the result that follows from the clear purpose itself. The profit purpose is not enough to keep the company aligned and moving forward in a consistent direction. And consistency is what you gain, because all activities and opportunities considered and acted on must be consistent with the company purpose. This may mean saying no to opportunities and closing down running activities.

It may not always be pleasant, but it is necessary to continuously look facts full in the face. What is the situation, what is on the horizon and how can the company keep moving ahead and achieve its purpose? It is not something that can be done in boardroom meetings or by the top manager in isolation. It is essential to invite input from employees and external stakeholders.

Greatness by disciplined action

Sticking with the company purpose even if it takes a while for efforts to gain momentum is required. Companies need to focus on achieving incremental progress until reaching a breakthrough moment. The other end of the spectrum sees companies hunting the next big thing, but when this next big thing does not materialize sufficiently quickly/effortlessly, focus is moved onto another next big thing. Lack of consistency and follow-through means that momentum is never built to the point where a breakthrough is achieved. Further, moving from one initiative to the next easily causes employees and external stakeholders to become skeptical towards the company’s intentions and ability to perform.

It is not uncommon for companies to conclude that investment in new cutting-edge technology will bring about the sought after breakthrough. It is not unusual that no foregoing clarification of technology fit with company purpose has been made. Companies need to ensure that they are only going massively after technology that solidly ties in with company purpose. All other technology can be kept as simple as possible or not implemented at all. This approach prevents diversion of resources to efforts that will not contribute to attaining the company purpose.

Falling from Greatness

Once the company has achieved its breakthrough, backsliding can still take place. Success can breed self-satisfaction and even a kind of hubris. If the company loses sight of what helped it achieve the breakthrough, and subsequently struggles to keep up momentum may set in.

Takeaways

For many companies the concepts as stated by Jim Collins will be something to aspire to. Especially in the age of globalization and knowledge workers where leadership and organizational structures are undergoing change from the old industrialization approach. Getting to great is a journey. It starts with gaining knowledge of the present situation in the company, followed by design and implementation of adjustments and carried out with consistency and patience.


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