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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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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2009

    Great material

    I used this book for an operations management course and found it to be informative. Anyone in management should read it, there is a lot of information on leaders that took their company to the next level.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    Very Inspiring

    Great book on tape. Encouraging, inspiring, and motivating. Could not stop listening to it in the car. Bought the prequel-Built to Last- as well.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 19, 2009

    Very informative, thorough research and back up provided

    I listened to the CD's twice, worth the time and money.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A GREAT Book!!

    This book covers everything you need to know to take an average good company to becoming a GREAT company!! Leaves you wanting more.. I now see why this book is seen as a prequel to Jim Collins "Built to Last." This is a very simple book with very simple conclusions and concepts. Never understood the Hedgehog concept until Collins explained it and showed how the GREAT companies applied it. Even if you have no desire to be great, this book has really changed my life in a way of simplifying what I aim to do while increasing effectiveness. An absolute must read for everyone!!

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  • Posted May 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    "The Bible of Management"

    This is truly a great piece of work. If you are a manager or in the management/business field, you should read this book. It can only help you.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 26, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Number 1 Management Book

    A few years ago, the company I was with purchased copies of Good to Great for managers. I was blown away by the information the book contained. The book went against my thinking at the time. In quick order, I changed my mind-set about several topics and found my `new ways' were more productive to my employer and my career. <BR/><BR/>Perplexed, I wondered why the executive management of the organization didn't practice the theories advanced in this book. They were after all, the ones that had purchased copies for their managers. Sad to say, the company began a downward spiral and several divisions were sold - myself included. <BR/><BR/>To my surprise, my new CEO was a huge fan of Good to Great and referred to it often. Outside of his office was a copy of the book permanently resting on a coffee table. In my good fortune, I learned that this CEO and the organization, took the lessons from Good to Great to heart. The company grew and my career grew. <BR/><BR/>I highly recommend this book to anyone in management.I have stated this is, quite simply, the best book on management available. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2008

    Managing talent

    Good to Great is a prequel to Jim Collins best seller Built To Last (coauthor, with Jerry Porras), which showed how companies triumph over time. In this book an extensive analysis of how good, mediocre, and even bad companies can achieve enduring greatness. Collins led a research team of 21 members who analyzed data on 1,435 companies, looking for the few that made substantial improvements in their performance over time. Collins's deeply earnest narration is heightened by his obvious zeal for the material, further enhancing this solid content. The 11 featured businesses, which earned the 'good-to-great' label, outperformed the market by a multiple of at least three over a 15-year period and were able to sustain their success for at least 15 years. They include Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Kimberly Clark, Phillip Morris, and Wells Fargo. Stock findings aside, this book has good talent management strategies, including getting the right people on the bus and making sure everyone is going towards the same goal. Nothing revolutionary, but still helpful. I also found the monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great helpful in the non profit arena. Another book I saw recommended on the Good to Great for the Social Sectors page, which I've subsequently purchased and received tremendous benefits from in my business is The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book. It is outstanding.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2008

    The right people in a culture of discipline

    Based on rigorous research, Good to Great is a landmark book among the plethora of leadership books. We learn that having the right leaders in an organization is more important than their vision. We also learn that figuring out what the organization could be best at in the world is a critical issue. But what caught my attention was the culture of discipline. Yes, individual and organization checks and balances. Recently, such discipline was ignored by major financial institutions resulting in the current financial market crisis. This book shows leaders how to avoid such organizational chaos, and rise from good to great. I agree with other reviewers that Good to Great should be read and executed with Optimal Thinking, the foundation of individual and organizational optimizaton. In the optimal thinking organization, employees do their best regardless of the circumstances, carefully evaluate risk and maximize execution. Acknowledging that thinking is the basis of performance, the organization evaluates the thinking levels of new candidates and educates current employees in optimal thinking. Digest the principles from both to achieve optimization.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2008

    Good to Great...A Valuable Read in These Turbulent Times

    I read this book once every year as a refresher of its basic concepts. And when I do this, I am mindful of the fact that this book continues to be one of the best in my library of business literature because of its neverending relevancy to current business management issues and strategies. Given the turmoil in today's economy and the many companies falling into bankruptcy, it will be an interesting exercise to evaluate the companies that flourish regardless of the economy to see what of the Good to Great elements were present and contributed to their success.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    I would rate this book as a five star book. It gives the reader different points of view regarding the management of different companies that made the transition from good companies to great companies. The most important subject of the book revolves around the people. In the book, Jim Collins describes how great companies made the transition because they had Great people working for them that understood the Hedgehog concept. Overall, I would really recommend this book to management because it describes how to improve the quality and the performance of your company. Ismael Favela

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2008

    One of the best books ever!

    This is filled with such easy to read and to understand concepts of what can make your company great. I wholeheartedly agree with those that have said that this should be required reading for entrepreneurs and executives. It really motivates me to strive for excellence in my business and work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2007

    A reviewer

    It could have been the Mediterranean cruise I was one while I read 'Good to Great' however, I suspect not. This is one of the best business books I have read in years. This book brings together the dry-ness of American corporate life while tying it with real-life lessons to both avoid and aspire towards. A powerful message woven through the history of corporate giants in the stages of development and collapse it challenges you to reflect on whether you settle for good or strive for great not just in your business life, in your personal life as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2007

    It should be a must read for New Entrepeneurs

    It gives a new or seasoned business owner an almost detailed plan into how to build a great company. A company that can exceed most peoples expectations. The process is not simple, but the result are unbelievable. In most business books, they sugar coat the reality of the business at hand. It is not about fancy offices,good business plans, not much about the bottom line,how profitable are you. Good to great should be made into a class for business owners to use as a sounding board or measure of what can truly be possible in the world of Business. Darrick H Scruggs

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2007

    Prnciples for greatness

    The greatest aspect of this fabulous book about Fortune 500 companies is the Hedgehog Effect where companies ask: What ignites passion? What in the world can we be the best at? What best drives the economic engine? Collins makes the point that when you have a passionate commitment to core values, you can ride through adversity. This book should be read with another wonderful book, Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self which provides the principles of optimization ie. principles of being your best to optimize corporate culture and performance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2007

    Richard Sallese, MS, MBA JD, LLM - Reviewer

    Jim Collins best book to date. I highly recommend this to all business students and MBA's This is a must read. He shoes how to make agood company into a great company. All business owers from Mom & Pop operations to CEO of large copanies, I recommend to read this book. Even with my business backround I was able learn from this well thought out book. If you are in the world of business and at any level it is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2007

    amazing concept and idea

    The book itself is not just good. It is really great. In this book, Jim Collins, gives us some interesting facts about what transforms a good company and a great company and what is the key factors that differentiate the. Factors such as: level 5 leadership, the hedgehog concept, technology as an accelerator, and confront the brutal concept are some of the key factors that Collins explains deeply in this book. His findings and opinions are all based on the empirical data. He also support his theory and opinion by comparing some succesful companies to the comparison companies. This book is a must read!! Jim Collins really did a marveolous job on this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2007

    To Be Great or not To Be Great, that is the question

    For years, building a great company has been considered as a fuzzy art, which not many can master, not even learn. In Good to Great, Jim Collins has shed the light of empirical evidence into the area especially reserved for superhuman CEO and larger-than-life myths. Unlike many other books, all conclusions in Good to Great are derived from pure statistical facts. The book carries not only numbers and digits behind great success but also a strong encouraging voice defying mediocrity. Good to Great is well written and applicable to everyone. For those who strive to perfection, reading this is definitely a must. Yet, even for those who reckon greatness as a distant luxury, Good to Great is a harmless trial. If it cannot shake one out of apathy, it will at least bring attention to that very hidden corner of capability.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2007

    Good to Great Review

    As an Industrial Engineering student I highly recommend this book to other students and also to CEO¿s, managers, supervisors, and companies. This book explains in detail how to become a great company. Jim Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years. The findings include Level 5 Leaders, the Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles), a Culture of Discipline that says that when you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. They also found Technology Accelerators where Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology, the Flywheel and the Doom Loop which explains that those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2007

    Excellent book

    Great read, well researched with excellent case studies about how companies rise above average performance and achieve greatness. Challenges conventional ideolopgy that vision is key. Instead, the right people are presented as most critical. Hedgehog concept, soecifically answering the optimal question 'what in the world are we best at?' caught my attention. Definitely a must read. Also recommended is 'Optimal Thinking' for personal and organizational culture optimization.

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