I found my reading of Good To Great by Jim Collins very informative and even entertaining. It is interesting to me his concepts and perceptions and how although when you read them they seem rather elementary and obvious, Mr. Collins is indeed an outside the box thinker/writer and it is because of his ease of explaining his concepts that the message simply comes across as easy. The main idea that is presented in this book is that “Good is the Enemy of Great.
” At first glance I had to re-read the statement to make sure I understood it correctly.
My immediate response was to understand it as all too often people, and business decision makers, have a simple goal of being good at what they do. Mr. Collins and his research team were able to whittle that idea down to a handful of concepts that although many have the perception are good, but don’t clarify their exact goals of greatness.
The first concept of Good To Great was Level 5 Leadership. Companies may have great product, great sales, great marketing, etc. but what makes them better than Good?
What makes takes them to the Great level? Their Leadership. During the research of this book Mr. Collins and his team identified multiple characteristics these leaders had that lead their company above and beyond just the Good status. Of these the common factor I understood was that of humility and giving credit to his surrounding personnel. Keeping the focus off of “look what I did” but rather keeping the focus off them, but at the same time taking responsibility for the mistakes of the company as a whole that they were in charge of looking after. These personalities also showed a great level of commitment and loyalty to their companies and tended to have been promoted from within.
Thus having a firm understanding of the culture of the company and knowing a long term goal of the company. Secondly the book introduced the concept of “First Who, Then What”. I related this concept to the phrase “Trimming The Fat”. Great leaders realize that if you’re only as good as your support, than you better get the right support in the right places. The Level 5 Leader would have to find those that could lead as well. If you have the right thinkers and decision makers in the right positions, then the “what” could be figured out.
By having the right decision makers from the get go then the goal was already on its way to Great. By doing so you are training your supports to eventually be capable to take your place and instilling a long term succession of the company’s goals for great. The next concept given was Confront the Brutal Facts With Unwavering Faith. Expanding on having placed the right “Who” where it was most beneficial, it is equally important to stay focused no matter the difficult time. The chapter focused on sticking to your guns, having faith in your company, and seeing the obstacle though.
This again focused on loyalty to the company. As time goes on and the tough time regains it’s momentum back into the right direction, Problem solving starts with asking the right questions. It’s more proactive to take control of our future than being reactive and leaving the destiny up to chance. Companies that were able to make it through the ups and downs of success on their way to Great. Another aspect was for these decision makers to be honest with them and be willing a capable of confronting the hard questions that perhaps they didn’t want the answer to. But, faced the brutal facts head on.
Fourth is the “Hedgehog Concept”. This was probably my favorite concept and I think will be the most important lesson I will take and use in my career path. The comparison was stated, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”. I think all too often it gets confused that if you’re in charge and making decisions you have to be the most knowledgeable person in that area. Remember though, especially in the totality of the emphasis of this book, you are not alone.
In the chapter, Mr. Collins worded his idea this way, “The Hedgehog Concept is a turning point in the journey from good to great. It typically takes the right people willing to address the brutal facts over an extended period of time to get to the deep understanding of a Hedgehog Concept. What a great statement. It shows the level of determination, loyalty, and staying focused that you realize your true One thing. Then you expand on that One thing. It will set you apart from the field and past the Good threshold into the level of Great! “Culture of Discipline” was the next concept. One again focusing on hard work and staying focused on your goal of surpassing into the Great realm and not just staying there but forever raising the bar.
Mr. Collins focused on the idea the in this sense discipline as a system. It involves the company in it’s entirety and making sure the companies “culture is filled with people committed to discipline in keeping to the standards. Each of these concepts builds on the one before it and this one is no different. Staying true to his “Hedgehog Concept” Mr. Collins also introduces his “Three Circles” concept. By focusing on keeping a Discipline in the company, it will help keep those involved with their eye on the prize of being able to find that one thing to be great at and to stay on top.
Technology Accelerator was the idea to not let technology become a crutch of sorts. Technology is like any other tool and if used properly it will assist you in your success and getting here faster or with ease. Again, building on the concept before it also emphasizes to stay with your Hedgehog circles and keeping focused on them. Technology will not make you the best or most disciplined. It is a tool and should be used to accelerate your momentum into the right direction of your company’s goals, not be the creator of the momentum.
Lastly “Flywheel and Doom Loop” was used to follow up. It’s a focus on being able to identify any and all aspects that take you away from the previous concepts. You should always be looking for ways to improve and stay ahead of the pack. The world of business is ever changing which keeps the bar separating Good from Great ever moving as well. Complacency is a “Good” trait. Having a system of check and balance working together with a cleaning house mentality will help to keep your company above that bar.