Tip of the Week #89                    Tip Index

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Good to Great
Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't

by Jim Collins, 2001, HarperBusiness, hardcover, 300 pages, list US$ 27.50

This is perhaps the best business book in years. Jim Collins is co-author of the best-selling book, Built to Last.  I forecast this book to be even more successful.

In this and the prior book, Jim Collins leads his research team in surveying selected great companies to determine the factors in their success.  Eleven "good-to-great" companies were studied in this latest research, lasting five years.  Those included as good-to-great companies had:

Collins insists that this book is about research findings and letting the data "speak for themselves."  There are some surprises, and he presents these up front.  Some examples:

This last point resonated most strongly with me and several colleagues.  I recast this in a personal career context in the next tip.

Good to Great is superbly written.  The chapters are well organized and linked to a logo graphic.  Key points and "Unexpected Findings" conclude each chapter.  There are ample and entertaining anecdotes to support the conclusions. At the end, Collins compares this to the previous book, though he now believes Good to Great should be the first book and Built to Last is the proper sequel.

My major disappointed: Collins mostly ignores shareholder value.  Great returns is the basis for selection, though the interviews apparently missed capturing how companies think about shareholders. Can a company be great without delivering superior returns to shareholders?  I suspect that the eleven good-to-great companies indeed felt a strong obligation to perform for the owners of the company.  However, this was in a win-win context for employees, customers, supplies and other stakeholders also.   The final chapter, reconciling comparing the two books, provides some illumination:

Participative management and shared decision-making appear more commonplace in the good-to-great companies.  Excerpts from interviews frequently mention passionate arguments about company purpose and direction, less beuracracy, self-directed people, "freedom and responsibility."

If you only read one business management book this year, this would be a good choice.

—John Schuyler, January 2002.

Copyright 2002 by John R. Schuyler. All rights reserved. Permission to copy with reproduction of this notice.