Good to great
Good to Great
Collins book Good to Great researches successful companies and draws out key features of those that have made the transition from Good to Great. A summary of the key ideas: Confront the ...
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Collins book Good to Great researches successful companies and draws out key features of those that have made the transition from Good to Great.
A summary of the key ideas:
Confront the Brutal Facts
One of the key factors in the success of the great companies was a series of good decisions. The good decisions flowed from the fact that they all made a consistent and thorough effort to confront reality, internalizing the facts relevant to their market. Having lofty goals can be good, but you can never lose sight of what the reality is on the ground, no matter how much you will it to be different.It’s often better to ask questions rather than dispense “answers”.
Encourage healthy debate. It has to be real debate, not a show put on to make people feel included. It should also not just be argument for the sake of argument – reach a conclusion and move on. When things go wrong, investigate to avoid repeating the mistake, instead of assigning blame. If people are too worried about protecting themselves, it becomes difficult to honestly analyse and learn from failures. Amidst these “brutal facts” that must be faced, you must also have faith in your final goal.
The Hedgehog Concept
The “hedgehog concept” refers to a parable of a hedgehog and a fox, where the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. The good to great companies were by and large built by “hedgehogs”. Great schools also know how to concentrate on the ‘one thing’.
Sometimes it takes real genius to see through all the clutter and grab the one, simple, unique thing that gives you the advantage. Passion, on the other hand, does not come from hype sessions, or great speakers, but by doing things that make people passionate on their own. Passion isn’t something that can be forced on people, it has to come from a mission that they truly believe in.
For a school our ‘economic engine’ has to be our results.
Culture of Discipline
Great companies have both an entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of discipline. They are both necessary – without the drive to try new things, and some degree of independence, a company becomes a rigid, stifling hierarchy. Without some sense of discipline, things begin to break down as the company grows. The best companies have both latitude for individual action, as well as a culture of disciplined behavior. There is a big difference between having a “tyrant” that enforces a culture of discipline by fear, and finding people who naturally adhere to a disciplined approach. The former will disintegrate when the leader moves on, the latter creates a lasting system. One helpful approach to discipline is to have a “stop doing” list. Stop doing the things that aren’t central to your business. Stop doing the things that are just clutter.
The “Flywheel” and “Doom Loop”
These two concepts represent positive and negative momentum. A flywheel is a heavy wheel that takes a lot of energy to set in motion – to do so usually requires constant, steady work, rather than a quick acceleration. Great companies’ transformations were like this as well. There was no magic recipe when everything changed. Rather, with everything in place, lots of hard work slowly but steadily got the great companies going faster and faster, with a lot of momentum. Once it’s in motion, all that stored energy tends to keep it moving in the right direction.
Because it’s not really that much harder to be great than good, and if you’re not motivated to greatness, perhaps you should consider doing something else.
A must read.