34. Good to Great (Jim Collins)

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A trusted leader recommended this as her favorite leadership book. It was an inspiring read describing how some companies make the leap from Good to Great and sustain their greatness. Collins’ team studied a large number of companies that went from good to great and analyzed them with comparator companies that did not make the leap, to discover key concepts that aided companies to become great. This was a terrific book that I will definitely recommend to others. 

Collins shares a chapter on each of the following philosophies: 

Level 5 Leadership – Collins described these leaders as quiet and unassuming. These were not the flashy, hero type of leaders that often are idolized. Descriptions of fierce, stoic, modest, willful, humble, fearless, gracious and understated were used. These leaders worked towards the greatness of the company rather than worrying about their own success. It was essential to them to ensure that the company would be even more successful with the next generation. These leaders did not speak of their own accomplishments but highlighted the team. While they attributed success to the team, they took responsibility for the challenges.

First Who…Then What – This concept deals with the analogy of getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off and then deciding where to go. When you have the right people, they are self-motivated. The concept included hiring the right people, building them into the best team members and then making sure to keep them!

Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith) – To move from good to great, companies need to face the realities, accept the brutal truth and act on it. Leaders need to ask questions and try to understand, engage in dialogue and debate and conduct autopsies without blame. Working in health care, this is very resonant as we try to improve the patient experience. Maintaining faith that the organization will prevail provides focus. 

The Hedgehog Concept – This concept is built on the fact that hedgehogs simplify their complex world, seeing what is most important and ignoring the rest. Companies that became great framed all decsions based on their hedgehog concept which included: What could they become the best at? What drives their economic engine? And what are they deeply passionate about? 

A Culture of Discipline – The challenge of discipline is thought to disappear when you have the self-disciplined “right people on the bus” who are disciplined to remain within the confines of the Hedgehog Concept.

Technology Accelerators – Collins shares that it is important to stop and think before making decisions on new technology. Technology can accelerate momentum towards greatness if it fits the Hedgehog Concept and is introduced with disciplined thought.

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop – good to great transformations are a cumulative process or “a whole bunch of interlocking pieces that built upon one and other” which evolve over time.

This is a fantastic read with real examples of companies who have been good and those that have sustained greatness. It gives positive ideas and a new way of thinking that will be helpful for leaders and rather than a strategy, can become the way we do things.

(300 pages)

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