Great Expectations

or “My Life in Blog Sounds Much Cooler Than It Really Is”

Book #2 – Good to Great by Jim Collins

Posted by mandyhuckins on March 10, 2009

When I am cruising around Barnes & Noble (or more likely virtually cruising around Amazon), I would not ordinarily stop and pick up a book like Good to Great.  This was assigned reading for my job.  But, I did read it, it is a book, and I think I am going to need all the help I can get to reach my reading goal for the year (55); so I am counting it and thus writing a review on it. 

The premise of the book is that some companies become uber successful and really stand out from the market in general as well as other organizations within their own sector.  Why?  How does this happen?  Jim Collins and his research team attempt to answer these questions and offer advice to companies wanting to make this jump. 

It is an interesting idea (who doesn’t want to know the secret of becoming great?), but there are a few things I question.  First, the sample pool seems rather small – 11 companies out of the thousands of companies out there.  Next, the success measure is based only upon stock returns from 1965 until 2000.  While stock return certainly is one measure of success, is the only one?  What about organizations, like the one with which I am currently employed, that aren’t publicly traded?  How can not-for-profits measure success?  Also, since the study data cut off was the year 2000, many of the “great” companies included in this study, certainly wouldn’t be considered so in these trying financial times.  Fannie Mae?  Circuit City?  I think some “great” companies are going to be the ones who planned ahead and will weather this current storm.  Right now, many Americans might define a great company as one that is still in business, is honoring its committments and is not laying off all of its workers.

One of the key points the book makes is that a company must have a “Level 5” leader in order to make the transition from good to great.  The research team takes great pains to define a Level 5 leader and outline the qualities and characteristics encompassed by such a person.  One of the major characteristics is humility…so, my question is, what do you do if you don’t have such a leader?  Do you give up? 

Apparently Good to Great has been a very strong seller in the business book market for years.  It is filled with trendy acronyms, charts and graphs.  It has dazzling statistics regarding the rocketing stock returns from the great companies.  But, I just wonder if reading it can possibly make a difference for any existing company…


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