wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)


American management expert on business success (pictured right).

Worked at Stanford Business School in California with Jerry Porras, pictured right below, with whom he wrote the best-seller, Built To Last.


See also...Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

Jim Collins in the Management Gurus section. 



Book summary


Why are only a few companies great?

Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

“Good is the enemy of great”, says Collins.

In other words, it is easy to settle for being good, so we don’t strive to be great.


How good companies become great


1. Level 5 leadersJim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

The best (level 5) leaders are egoless with

  • a mixture of modest humility and a fearless, fanatical will to achieve success for the organization (not themselves) - the best leaders are “more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton or Caesar”.
  • a combination of the “window” (giving other people credit for successes) and the “mirror” (taking the blame for mistakes and failure).
  • excellence at the other four levels of leadership:

Level 1Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

Highly capable individual (getting results through “talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits”).


Level 2 

Contributing team member (effectively contributing to group performance).


Level 3 

Competent manager (effectively organizing people to achieve organizational objectives like customer satisfaction).


Level 4 

Effective leader (inspiring people to achieve a vision and higher performance).


2. First who...then whatJim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

“First get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) before you figure out where to drive it”.

In other words:

Get the right people in the right jobs (working on your best opportunities, not the biggest problems) and then decide on strategy.

The great companies are “rigorous” with challenging performance standards but avoiding ruthless redundancies, if possible.


3. Confront the brutal facts (yet never lose faith)

Facing reality whilst having faith in success (the “Stockdale Paradox”).

This requires:Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

  • asking questions (the first thing to do).
  • stimulating constructive debate.
  • analysing failures without blaming people.
  • emphasizing important facts (“red flag mechanisms”).


4. The Hedgehog ConceptJim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

Simplifying the world into one principle or concept that makes you a world beater.

To do this you must do three things (three “intersecting circles”):

  • to be best in the world in your business.
  • drive your economic engine most effectively (i.e. maximize profit and cash).
  • concentrate on what you’re passionate about.


5. A culture of discipline

Achieving innovation and customer satisfaction through disciplined:

  • people.
  • thinking. Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)
  • action.

This requires:

  • freedom to act.
  • self-discipline.
  • empowerment.


6. Technology accelerators

Applying certain technologies whilst realizing that technology can’t be the cause of greatness or decline

“Technology can accelerate a transformation, but technology cannot cause a transformation”, says Collins.

 Jim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

7. The flywheel and the doom loop

Greatness doesn’t happen overnight but through a slow but constant pursuit of success like pushing a great giant flywheel.

The opposite of this Flywheel Effect is the Doom Loop, when failure results from change not happening.


8. From Good to Great to Built to LastJim Collins, Good to Great (2001)

Making greatness permanent through:

  • a core purpose.
  • values that stimulate progress.

(as outlined in Collins and Jerry Porras’ book, Built to Last)


Key quote on human resource management

People are not your most important asset. The right people are.


Key quote on business success

That good is the enemy of great is not just a business problem. It is a human problem.


Key quote on leadership and management

One of the most damaging trends in recent history is...to select dazzling celebrity leaders and to de-select potential Level 5 leaders.


Key quote on management

The best people don’t need to be managed. Guided, taught, led – yes. But not tightly managed.


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