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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

A book for the ages!

Good to Great is Jim Collins's follow-up to Built to Last, the 1994 management classic, which he co-wrote with Jerry Porras. Infact, Collins calls Good To Great a "prequel" to his hugely successful Built To Last. I call it one of the most important Business Leadership b...
Good to Great is Jim Collins's follow-up to Built to Last, the 1994 management classic, which he co-wrote with Jerry Porras. Infact, Collins calls Good To Great a "prequel" to his hugely successful Built To Last. I call it one of the most important Business Leadership books I have read. While Built To Last was a great book, however, it left out critical information, because those companies were already great. What about those of us struggling to move our companies from Good To Great as opposed to those trying to hold on to greatness? The missing piece is clearly identified in Collins' Good To Great. Collins spent five years of research assisted by 20 business school students, who analyzed 1,435 public companies for this book. Their findings - just 11 companies from were able to sustainable their good to great efforts.
Having identified the companies that made the leap from Good To Great, Collins and his team set out to examine the transition point. What characteristics did the Good To Great companies have that their industry counterparts did not? What didn't the Good To Great companies have? Collins maps out three stages, each with two key concepts. These six concepts are the heart of Good To Great and he devotes a chapter to explaining each of them.
.Level 5 Leadership
.First Who... Then What
.Confront the Brutal Facts
.The Hedgehog Concept
.A Culture of Discipline
.Technology Accelerators
Many experts have problems with the way Collins and his team performed their "research." Some argue that Collins's measure for greatness is flawed or that his work fails to be classified as true research because it does not follow any scientific method. Or that the key measure used by Collins ("Ratio of Cumulative Stock Returns to General Market") looks at the company only through the eyes of one stakeholder - the owners. These arguments may be a bit unfair because some of the variables in business do not lend themselves well to true research; greatness is a subjective quality; and the amount of immeasurable historical variables for this particular project is so immense. If research of this nature was an easy task, we should have written tried and tested formulas for perfect businesses, leaders, schools, cities, et al during our 3,000 plus years of civilization.
Unlike many business books that are based on hype and after-market consulting services, Good to Great is mainly based on good old fashion business principles. Sure, Collins renames some of them with gimmicky names like Hedgehog Concept and The Flywheel. But for the most part, Collins's book has some sound principles in it that the reader shouldn't necessarily take as a game plan, but rather a starting point for conversation, reflection and inspiration both for themselves and their team.
How does his research reflect in the current economic slowdown? If I were to apply Collins' theory in today's recessionary environment, I would show one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as possible. I'd put off everything else to fill my bus. Because things are going to come back. The flywheel is going to start to turn. And the single biggest constraint on the success of any organization will be the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.
To sum up, Good to Great can be a very useful tool when its principles are adapted to the user's unique situation and variables.

posted by Shyamashree-Rudra on April 15, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

PRETTY AWFUL

After reading this book I was not very impressed. Jim Collins started with a template and tried to find companies that would fit into his template. His leadership idea is nothing new and he could have taken all the leaders in the world and found stories that fit into hi...
After reading this book I was not very impressed. Jim Collins started with a template and tried to find companies that would fit into his template. His leadership idea is nothing new and he could have taken all the leaders in the world and found stories that fit into his mold. His revelations are obnoxious and he spends about half the book talking about the good to great concept instead of using deep analysis to uncover some hidden truths.

One of the greatest flaws of this book is how he took a good look at certain companies through interviews but he failed to study any of the accounting changes that effected some of the businesses he discusses. One of the most notable is Walgreen's and circuit city who were able to structure their leases in such a way that they did not have to disclose them on the balance sheet as assets or liabilities. Walgreens and Circuit City grew because their bankers didn't get the full picture of how much debt the company was able to take on under the table and not disclose. Now that these companies are forced to disclose that information they appear less solvent and their stock price has adjusted to reality. Additionally Circuit City tanked when the new accounting practices and bad economy showed how insolvent they really were.

Other things Jim Collins failed to mention involved the establishment of right to work states that ended union control on companies and allowed NUCOR to establish one of the most efficient manufactures in the world.

Most of the companies Jim talks about have fallen apart in heaps and are bad to average. He should have written a book about how little research he had to do to write a book that would get praise from the entire academic sector but be a complete bad to worse book at best.

Don't buy the book! Save your money and take some accounting classes and you can then uncover what takes a company from good to great!

posted by MAXIMUS15 on December 14, 2010

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  • Posted April 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A book for the ages!

    Good to Great is Jim Collins's follow-up to Built to Last, the 1994 management classic, which he co-wrote with Jerry Porras. Infact, Collins calls Good To Great a "prequel" to his hugely successful Built To Last. I call it one of the most important Business Leadership books I have read. While Built To Last was a great book, however, it left out critical information, because those companies were already great. What about those of us struggling to move our companies from Good To Great as opposed to those trying to hold on to greatness? The missing piece is clearly identified in Collins' Good To Great. Collins spent five years of research assisted by 20 business school students, who analyzed 1,435 public companies for this book. Their findings - just 11 companies from were able to sustainable their good to great efforts.
    Having identified the companies that made the leap from Good To Great, Collins and his team set out to examine the transition point. What characteristics did the Good To Great companies have that their industry counterparts did not? What didn't the Good To Great companies have? Collins maps out three stages, each with two key concepts. These six concepts are the heart of Good To Great and he devotes a chapter to explaining each of them.
    .Level 5 Leadership
    .First Who... Then What
    .Confront the Brutal Facts
    .The Hedgehog Concept
    .A Culture of Discipline
    .Technology Accelerators
    Many experts have problems with the way Collins and his team performed their "research." Some argue that Collins's measure for greatness is flawed or that his work fails to be classified as true research because it does not follow any scientific method. Or that the key measure used by Collins ("Ratio of Cumulative Stock Returns to General Market") looks at the company only through the eyes of one stakeholder - the owners. These arguments may be a bit unfair because some of the variables in business do not lend themselves well to true research; greatness is a subjective quality; and the amount of immeasurable historical variables for this particular project is so immense. If research of this nature was an easy task, we should have written tried and tested formulas for perfect businesses, leaders, schools, cities, et al during our 3,000 plus years of civilization.
    Unlike many business books that are based on hype and after-market consulting services, Good to Great is mainly based on good old fashion business principles. Sure, Collins renames some of them with gimmicky names like Hedgehog Concept and The Flywheel. But for the most part, Collins's book has some sound principles in it that the reader shouldn't necessarily take as a game plan, but rather a starting point for conversation, reflection and inspiration both for themselves and their team.
    How does his research reflect in the current economic slowdown? If I were to apply Collins' theory in today's recessionary environment, I would show one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as possible. I'd put off everything else to fill my bus. Because things are going to come back. The flywheel is going to start to turn. And the single biggest constraint on the success of any organization will be the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.
    To sum up, Good to Great can be a very useful tool when its principles are adapted to the user's unique situation and variables.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    This book has become a religion for me...

    I read Good to Great about four years ago and I am constantly going back to it to keep me on the course. I was amazed not only by the revelations, but also by how much of the ideas seem to be common sense, but really aren't in the business world. It became by goals to find a company matched the ideals laid out in this book (and happily, I think I have). The book is very easy to read and the research is laid out and explained in a very thoughtful way.

    There are lessons here well beyond business. A high school teacher friend of mine read this and said he found it very insightful to his world as well.

    A must read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    read together with 'enduring success'

    As Circuit City went under and some of the other Good to Great companies struggled critics pointed out that Jim Collin's companies are not quite that great and hence his suggestions not useful. I think they are wrong. It does not matter how well these companies do in the long run. The book uses a specified observation period (15 good, followed by 15 great years) and develops propositions based on this period.

    A more valid criticism of the book is related to the method. Case study research - as the method is called in management sciences - allows you to develop ideas and theories not test them. Jim Collins could be more explicit about this.

    Once we establish what the book and can't do, it actually provides great thoughts on how you can turn your company from good to great. But what next? How do you stay there. Jim Collins'suggest you take a look at 'Built to Last', a book that describes how firms succeeded over many decades. It's a great read but a little dated (17 years since it was first published). I recommend that you take a look at the newly published 'Enduring Success. What we can learn from the history of outstanding corporations'. Same question but incorporation of fresh management thoughts plus connection to current debates.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2014

    This book takes the data from the Fortune 500 and finds only 11

    This book takes the data from the Fortune 500 and finds only 11 of them that fit very strict criteria for being considered to be “Great” and analyzes exactly what brought them to that point. If figuring out what makes a company go from being average compared to the general market to slowly growing to the point where they consistently outperform the rest of their market by 3:1 isn’t interesting to you, then this isn’t the book for you. Otherwise, this book isn’t too long and it will give you plenty of lessons regarding business mentality. It is important to note that a lot of the research is done in interviews and not just strict numbers so a lot of the data will be a little fuzzy, but the concepts themselves will reoccur and be reinforced plenty throughout the book.
    This is a highly systematic and logical book that builds up each chapter upon the previous knowledge but that is casual and well explained so anyone can read it. I like how it starts with the common beliefs of what creates a great company, like a single genius leader or fast expansion, and quickly fixes those misconceptions before moving onto the rest of the ideas. Its examples are concrete and highly detailed and, even without reading their specific research, it is obvious that a lot of work was done to gather all of the data. The most common criticism I have read is that the companies they followed are no longer doing well, but it is important to note that this book is not meant to predict the future, it was meant to interpret the present. The companies they analyzed were, at the time doing well and shared characteristics that were then deemed evidence of what a company should do to grow. Even if the companies all went bankrupt in the next few years, the book’s research would still be sound and valid. They might even make another book called “Great to Bankrupt” in that case. This book does not find evidence to support an answer. They find an answer from the evidence and that is why I highly recommend this book. 
    In short, this book does a good job of providing a cohesive understanding of what they researched compacted into a form that is easily understandable without compromising the information. It is well written, well organized, and well researched and I look forward to reading “Built to Last” next.

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  • Posted March 28, 2014

    Highly Recommended

    Good review for the experienced manager.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    Jim Collins is a man driven by relentless curiosity. He once was

    Jim Collins is a man driven by relentless curiosity. He once was a student, but now is a teacher of enduring great companies. In Collins’ book, Good to Great, Collins explains the various steps required to transform a “good” company into a “great” company. 

    Visualize a massive flywheel that weighs at more than a thousand pounds resting on an axle. The goal is to get the flywheel spinning as fast as possible. At first, pushing the flywheel will seem impossible and not show any visual progressive results. However, with continued effort the flywheel begins to gradually build momentum and one revolution of the flywheel is completed, two revolutions, three revolutions, and so on. Each push accumulated and got the flywheel spinning. Collins uses this accurate depiction as a key to explaining the many small steps it takes achieve success. 

    The three main keys that build up momentum in a company and lead to breakthrough are: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Collins goes into great depth explaining these three subjects revealing the approach that numerous companies take to become successful. Whether you have a company you are trying to improve or you are simply interested in how present companies have come to be the successful image they are today, Collins’ Good to Great is definitely a recommended read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    A Must Read!!

    Principles I can apply to my career, and equally to my personal life. What a wonderful book!

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    Jim Collins and team show masterful dedication and precision whe

    Jim Collins and team show masterful dedication and precision when it comes to their approach on drawing the conclusions presented in this book.  Using Aristotelian logic and Socratic questioning, the team's bias had no part in the analysis of what it takes to go from good to great.  But, what transcended the business jargon was the undeniable fact that this is also a book on what it takes to make a mediocre life, a great life.

    Collins’ use of straightforward diction allows Good to Great to be digested by age groups ranging from high school on up.  It speaks to the common man, even though its information is derived using some of the most successful companies and corporations in the world as the context.  Constant repeating of each principle allows for greater understanding and absorption of the key factors.  This repetition only adds to the flow of the book, demonstrating the compounding affect the factors have on the overall success of Good-to-Great Companies.  All the while, holding onto the relationship between these principles and a fulfilled life.
    In conclusion, Good to Great is closed very elegantly by Collins, were he states: “When all these pieces [principles] come together, not only does your work move toward greatness, but so does your life.  For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life.  And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work (p.210).”  Hand in hand, work and life stroll happily – or miserably – together, each working off one another like a couple deeply in love.  There is a way to extract the most joy out of life and Collins reveals a way.  Are there other ways: absolutely.  But, what holds true no matter the process, it begins and ends with passion.  Find that passion, act on that passion, and take your time.  All other successes will come naturally.  Or so says Collins…

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    Content 5 stars, ebook 1 star

    This is a great book that I highly recommend. So for content I give it 5 stars. However, I do recommend buying the hardback version. The figures and tables are very poorly rendered in the ebook format -- illegible in some cases. 1 star for the ebook.

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  • Posted May 5, 2012

    I found Jim's book to be a shot of reality of what it takes to s

    I found Jim's book to be a shot of reality of what it takes to succeed as a company in a world caught up in the quick fix. As an entrepreneur, I have seen first hand that the principles Jim outlines as being as being critical to an organization's success. It was great to read a book that focused on building strong fundamentals and sticking to the basics rather than always looking for solutions through tactics.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

    Interesting

    This is a very interesting look at what makes businesses succeed in general, not only in their own industry. Having read Built to last and this, I think both are great reads with valid points to consider. While some companies in this book are no longer around, you can see reasons why too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2012

    faceek

    picturesx

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2011

    The best business book ever

    It's hard to give a bigger compliment than that. I've re-read the book many times and always love it.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 18, 2010

    This is a must read book

    This book has great value and really helps you understand how good companies over a sustained period of time are able to become great companies. Good research, examples, and analysis of how and why. A good book for a small business owner or a corporate executive.

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  • Posted June 5, 2010

    Get the right people on the bus first!

    The analysis of "Good-to-Great" companies and several comparison companies was successfully shared from the perspective of Collins and his team. The ability to define what it takes to achieve greatness was placed in terms that could be understood and applied in situation in and out of the corporate world. For example, Collins' comparison of different leadership styles and how they affect the longevity and sustained success of a company was described in full detail with real industry examples. By describing the different hierarchies of leadership, Collins was able to place comparative limits between the "good"
    and "great" companies. In addition, the traits of the "level 4" versus "level 5" leaders were utilized in defining critical concepts throughout the book.
    In describing the "great" companies that were analyzed, Collins was able to explain how they each had their own "Hedgehog Concept". The great companies used this hedgehog concept in order to put themselves ahead of the market and stay on top of their industry. This was a prime example of a concept that can be used in everyday life. Think about it, take what you can be the best at in the world and focus on that option and work towards that goal whether it is baseball, making your company a Fortune 100 company, or even playing an instrument.
    Collins ties the main leadership properties, the culture of discipline, and the hedgehog concepts into a more thorough description when discussing the breakthrough of a company. The Flywheel concept explains that the breakthrough to greatness is progressive and momentum is built up, however, there is not a defined transition point. This was an amazing concept that was well defined as it showed that changes do not happen instantaneously, they take time. The right team has to be built created in order to start turning the wheels.
    Overall, I would recommend this book as the concepts are broken down into understandable and general vocabulary that can be understood and appreciated from the college student level on up. Collins has an amazing ability to apply the concepts to actual situations that allow the reader to feel as if they are conversing with the author while reading through the literature. The concepts are laid out very well for application in the corporate world, especially for students who are preparing for their careers. This is knowledge that all business leaders, management teams, and associates should be familiar with as it provides another view on achieving greatness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    Great Book!

    Got me motivated to get my company on the right track. Just what I needed.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Good to Great well researched

    Fascinating book that compares "good" companies to those that have soared to greatness, finding the commonalities and differences. Good resource for all business and non profit leaders.

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  • Posted March 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent business book

    Ever wonder how your company can make the leap from Good to Great? This book applies to everyone who wants to make a difference in their company and grow in their career. A few of the key points:

    What makes a Level 5 leader? The Good to Great companies are all led by a Level 5 leader. This book will help you understand what a Level 5 leader is. First who, then what. I can't count the number of times I've seen a company hire just because they need to hire. It is very important to make sure you hire the right person. The hedgehog concept is an excellent philosophy. Knowing one big thing is to make your company great is much more important than knowing many smaller things.

    These are just a of the topics that made this book great which is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Great Business Sense

    Found the information so useful, I went back to B&N and ordered a copy as a gift for an associate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2009

    'Great' book!

    This is a must read for any mba student as well as any professional. Easy to read too!

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