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

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Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring ...

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

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Overview

The Challenge

Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study

For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards

Using tough benchmarks, 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. How great? 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, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the worldÕs greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons

The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings

The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

  • Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness.
  • The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence.
  • A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results.
  • Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology.
  • The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

Some of the key concepts discerned in the study, comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people. Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?

"Some of the key concepts discerned in the study," comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people."

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Jim Collins begins this book with a startling and counterintuitive claim: "Good is the enemy of great." We've become so conditioned to think of performance as something that develops along evolutionary lines -- from poor to good to outstanding -- that it takes a minute to grasp the notion that competence can actually inhibit achievement. As Collins says, "The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good -- and that is their main problem."

Based on an extensive five-year study conducted by Collins and a research team he affectionately refers to as "the Chimps," Good to Great defines and analyzes the practices that allowed 11 companies to make the rare transition from solid to outstanding performance. One of the first surprises of the book is the list of companies Collins focuses on: Circuit City, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo haven't been touted as top performers in that way that GE or Coca-Cola, for instance, have. Nonetheless, the companies chosen have all met the rigorous criteria that Collins developed to measure the good-to-great transition. Some of the other revelations in the book concern the lack of correlation between executive compensation and corporate performance; the fact that technology did not in itself engender corporate transformation; and the scant attention that these upward-trending companies paid to such issues as managing change or motivating people.

Collins's philosophy is summed up in one noteworthy phrase from the book -- "Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice." Anyone who wants to make the right choices for their business will find Good to Great instructive, accessible, and well worth reading. It is sure to be a business book that will be consulted and referred to for years to come. (Sunil Sharma)

Publishers Weekly
In what Collins terms a prequel to the bestseller Built to Last he wrote with Jerry Porras, this worthwhile effort explores the way good organizations can be turned into ones that produce great, sustained results. To find the keys to greatness, Collins's 21-person research team (at his management research firm) read and coded 6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project. That Collins is able to distill the findings into a cogent, well-argued and instructive guide is a testament to his writing skills. After establishing a definition of a good-to-great transition that involves a 10-year fallow period followed by 15 years of increased profits, Collins's crew combed through every company that has made the Fortune 500 (approximately 1,400) and found 11 that met their criteria, including Walgreens, Kimberly Clark and Circuit City. At the heart of the findings about these companies' stellar successes is what Collins calls the Hedgehog Concept, a product or service that leads a company to outshine all worldwide competitors, that drives a company's economic engine and that a company is passionate about. While the companies that achieved greatness were all in different industries, each engaged in versions of Collins's strategies. While some of the overall findings are counterintuitive (e.g., the most effective leaders are humble and strong-willed rather than outgoing), many of Collins's perspectives on running a business are amazingly simple and commonsense. This is not to suggest, however, that executives at all levels wouldn't benefit from reading this book; after all, only 11 companies managed to figureout how to change their B grade to an A on their own. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Collins follows his successful Built To Last (coauthor, with Jerry Porras), which showed how companies triumph over time, with this 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. 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. The author reveals common traits that distinguish these companies from comparison firms that failed to reach a similar level of success. Collins's deeply earnest narration is heightened by his obvious zeal for the material, further enhancing this solid content that will likely have more staying power than Tom Peters's In Search of Excellence. Highly recommended for larger public libraries and university libraries supporting a business curriculum.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
In his previous bestseller, Built to Last, Jim Collins explored what made great companies great and how they sustained that greatness over time. One point kept nagging him, though - great companies have, for the most part, always been great, while a vast majority of good companies remain just that: good, but not great. What could merely good companies do to become great, to turn long-term weakness into long-term supremacy?

Collins and his team of researchers used strict benchmarks to identify a group of 11 elite companies that made the leap from good to great and sustained that greatness for at least 15 years. The real surprise of Good to Great is not so much what good companies do to propel themselves to greatness - it is why more companies have not done the same things more often.

The author and his team of researchers established these good-to-great benchmarks:

  • The companies had to have experienced 15-year cumulative stock returns that were at or below the general stock market, punctuated by a transition point, then cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next fifteen years.
  • Each company had to demonstrate the good-to-great pattern independent of its industry.
  • Each company had to demonstrate a pattern of results.
  • Each company was compared to other similar companies that either never made the good-to-great leap (or made it but did not sustain it), in order to determine what distinguished the good-to-great company from all others.


When the dust cleared and the good-to-great companies were identified, the author and his researchers found distinct patterns of behavior in those who led each company and the people who followed them - patterns that concerned disciplined people, thought and action.

Level 5 Leadership
One of the most surprising results of the research was in the discovery of the type of leadership required to turn a good company into a great one. One might think that such companies are led by high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities.

Yet, Collins found that those leaders who seek and thrive in the spotlight do not exude what can be termed "Level 5 Leadership" behaviors. (The term Level 5 refers to the highest level in a hierarchy of executive capabilities.) Leaders of this type -those who combine extreme personal humility with intense professional will - shun the attention of celebrity, channeling their ambition toward the goal of building a great company. Collins explains that these leaders all set up successors for success, are compellingly modest, and have unwavering resolve.

He also found that good-to-great leaders understand three simple truths:

  1. If you begin with the "who," rather than the "what," you can more easily adapt to a changing world.
  2. If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.
  3. If you have the wrong people, it doesn't matter whether you discover the right direction - you still won't have a great company.


All good-to-great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality. Collins found that when a company starts with an honest and diligent effort to determine the truth of its situation, the right decisions often become self-evident.

One of the primary tasks in taking a company from good to great is to create a culture wherein people have a tremendous opportunity to be heard and, ultimately, for the truth to be likewise heard. Collins writes that, to create a culture of discipline, successful leaders:

  • Build a culture around the idea of freedom and responsibility, within a framework.
  • Fill the company's culture with self-disciplined people who are willing to go to extreme lengths to fulfill their responsibilities.
  • Do not confuse a culture of discipline with a tyrannical discipline.


Collins also found that good-to-great organizations think differently than mediocre organizations about technology and technological change. They avoid the fads and bandwagons that typically arise from new technology, instead becoming pioneers in the application of carefully selected technologies. Leaders of good-to-great companies respond with thoughtfulness and creativity, driven by a compulsion to turn unrealized potential into results. They act in terms of what they want to create, and how to improve their companies, relative to an absolute standard of excellence.

Good-to-great transformations often look like dramatic, revolutionary events to those observing from the outside, but they feel like organic, cumulative processes to people on the inside. Collins writes that good-to-great companies had no name for their transformations; there was no launch event, no tag line, no programmatic feel whatsoever. Collins explains that each company went through a quiet, deliberate process of figuring out what needed to be done to create the best future results, then simply took those steps, one by one over time, until it hit breakthrough moments.

Why Soundview Likes This Book
Collins has taken exemplary research and turned it into a book that redefines what it takes to become a great company. His eye-opening insights and sharp historical perspective support the valid and important conclusions he reaches. By debunking many myths about what it takes to make a company succeed, he points leaders in the right direction to turn competence into excellence. Copyright (c) 2002 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Business Week
One of the top ten business books of 2001
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402520778
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/22/2010
  • Format: CD

Meet the Author

Jim Collins
Jim Collins is co-author of Built to Last, a national bestseller for over five years with a million copies in print. A student of enduring great companies, he serves as a teacher to leaders throughout the corporate and social sectors. Formerly a faculty member at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award, Jim now works from his management research laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

Good To Know

Collins says he finds the writing process a difficult one. "I can average no more than a page a day of high quality output – and those are long days!" he said in our interview. "If I produce a 30 page chapter, it will take me 30 days of work. I like what Michener said: 'I am not a master writer. I am a master rewriter."'

Collins has been married to wife Joanne for 22 years; the pair got engaged four days after their first date. When I finished Good to Great, Joanne said, “It’s nice to have you back” -- even though I’d been sitting just 20 feet away in the Morris chair for all those months of writing. That’s just the nature of writing a book; it requires a degree of obsession and productive neurosis.

A passionate rock climber, Collins likes to work early in the morning and then take a break to go climbing on the cliffs of Boulder or Eldorado Canyon. "No matter how wrapped up I am in a piece of work," he says, "it all melts away when I’m focused on the next ten feet of rock. I like to return in the afternoon for a good nap of 30 minutes to two hours, followed by a late afternoon creative work session before spending the evening with Joanne."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boulder, Colorado
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 25, 1958
    2. Place of Birth:
      Aurora, Colorado
    1. Education:
      B.S. in mathematical sciences, Stanford University, 1980; M.B.A., Stanford University, 1983
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Good is the Enemy of Great



That's what makes death so hard -- unsatisfied curiosity.

--Beryl Markham,
West with the Night


Good is the enemy of great.

And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.

We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good -- and that is their main problem.

This point became piercingly clear to me in 1996, when I was having dinner with a group of thought leaders gathered for a discussion about organizational performance. Bill Meehan, the managing director of the San Francisco office of McKinsey & Company, leaned over and casually confided, "You know, Jim, we love Built to Last around here. You and your coauthor did a very fine job on the research and writing. Unfortunately, it's useless."

Curious, I asked him to explain.

"The companies you wrote about were, for the most part, always great," he said. "They never had to turn themselves from good companies into great companies. They had parents like David Packard and George Merck, who shaped the character of greatness from early on. But what about the vast majority of companies that wake up partway through life and realize that they're good, but not great?"

I now realize that Meehan was exaggerating for effect with his "useless" comment, but his essential observation was correct -- that truly great companies, for the most part, have always been great. And the vast majority of good companies remain just that -- good, but not great. Indeed, Meehan's comment proved to be an invaluable gift, as it planted the seed of a question that became the basis of this entire book -- namely, Can a good company become a great company and, if so, how? Or is the disease of "just being good" incurable?

Five years after that fateful dinner we can now say, without question, that good to great does happen, and we've learned much about the underlying variables that make it happen. Inspired by Bill Meehan's challenge, my research team and I embarked on a five-year research effort, a journey to explore the inner workings of good to great.

In essence, we identified companies that made the leap from good results to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. We compared these companies to a carefully selected control group of comparison companies that failed to make the leap, or if they did, failed to sustain it. We then compared the good-to-great companies to the comparison companies to discover the essential and distinguishing factors at work.

The good-to-great examples that made the final cut into the study attained extraordinary results, averaging cumulative stock returns 6.9 times the general market in the fifteen years following their transition points. To put that in perspective, General Electric (considered by many to be the best-led company in America at the end of the twentieth century) outperformed the market by 2.8 times over the fifteen years 1985 to 2000. Furthermore, if you invested $1 in a mutual fund of the good-to-great companies in 1965, holding each company at the general market rate until the date of transition, and simultaneously invested $1 in a general market stock fund, your $1 in the good-to-great fund taken out on January 1, 2000, would have multiplied 471 times, compared to a 56 fold increase in the market.

These are remarkable numbers, made all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that they came from companies that had previously been so utterly unremarkable. Consider just one case, Walgreens. For over forty years, Walgreens had bumped along as a very average company, more or less tracking the general market. Then in 1975, seemingly out of nowhere -- bang! -- Walgreens began to climb...and climb...and climb...and climb...and it just kept climbing. From December 31, 1975, to January 1, 2000, $1 invested in Walgreens beat $1 invested in technology superstar Intel by nearly two times, General Electric by nearly five times, Coca-Cola by nearly eight times, and the general stock market (including the NASDAQ stock run-up at the end of 1999) by over fifteen times.

How on earth did a company with such a long history of being nothing special transform itself into an enterprise that outperformed some of the best-led organizations in the world? And why was Walgreens able to make the leap when other companies in the same industry with the same opportunities and similar resources, such as Eckerd, did not make the leap? This single case captures the essence of our quest.

This book is not about Walgreens per se, or any of the specific companies we studied. It is about the question -- Can a good company become a great company and, if so, how? -- and our search for timeless, universal answers that can be applied by any organization.

Our five-year quest yielded many insights, a number of them surprising and quite contrary to conventional wisdom, but one giant conclusion stands above the others: We believe that almost any organization can substantially improve its stature and performance, perhaps even become great, if it conscientiously applies the framework of ideas we've uncovered.


This book is dedicated to teaching what we've learned. The remainder of this introductory chapter tells the story of our journey, outlines our research method, and previews the key findings. In chapter 2, we launch headlong into the findings themselves, beginning with one of the most provocative of the whole study: Level 5 leadership.

Undaunted Curiosity


People often ask, "What motivates you to undertake these huge research projects?" It's a good question. The answer is, "Curiosity."...

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Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
In 1994, my life changed dramatically when Built to Last, the book I coauthored with Jerry Porras about what it takes to build enduring great companies, became a wholly unexpected bestseller. Oddly, I responded by going into a deep existential funk. After six years of immersion, I no longer had a big project to work on. It was like I'd returned from the Lewis and Clark expedition with no new outlet in which to channel my somewhat obsessive energies. I woke up every morning and wondered, What on earth am I going to do next? My anxiety only worsened as I felt pressure from all sides -- agents, publishers, pundits -- to "get on with the next one to capitalize on the first one."

Fortunately, my wife, Joanne, pulled me out of the muck. "Don't pick another question just to do another book," she admonished. "Wait until a question picks you."

It was great advice. And I began to wait...and wait...and wait. A month went by. Then six months. Then a year. Then nearly two years. I began to have a sinking feeling that I would never again have a worthy question that would capture my passion and imagination.

But then at a dinner with people gathered to discuss organizational change and performance, a McKinsey partner leaned over his salad and said, "You know Jim, we love Built to Last around here. But unfortunately, it's useless."

Useless? Six years of my life, useless?

"The companies you wrote about were, for the most part, always great," he said. "They never had to turn themselves from good companies into great companies. They had parents like David Packard and George Merck, who shaped the character of greatness from early on. But what about the vast majority of companies that wake up partway through life and realize that they're good, but not great?"

His observation proved to be an invaluable gift. It planted the seed of a question that became the basis of the next five years of my life, namely, Can a good company become a great company and, if so, how?

The question of good to great captured me on a deep level as not just a business question but a human question. For the truth is, good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don't have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. And the vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good -- and that is their main problem.

Five years after that fateful dinner (and 20,000 hours of research time with my team), I can now say, without question, that good to great does happen, and we've learned much about the underlying variables that make it happen. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't is the culmination. And while I fully expect another bout with existential despair in the wake of publication, I wouldn't trade the journey for anything.

If we have cracked the code on good to great, then we might see good schools become great schools, good government become great government, good companies become great companies and perhaps even a number of good lives become great lives. And that has made the effort worth every minute. (Jim Collins)

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Reading Group Guide

"In an ironic twist, I now see Good to Great not as a sequel to Built to Last, but more of a prequel. Good to Great is about how to turn a good organization into one that produces sustained great results. Built to Last is about how you take a company with great results and turn it into an enduring great company of iconic stature." --Jim Collins
An IntroductionCan good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness? And if so, what are the distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great? Using tough benchmarks, Jim Collins and his research team embarked on a five-year pursuit to identify a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results. How great? These companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck. The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good? After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his team discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't. The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of managementstudy and practice. "Some of the key concepts discerned in the study," comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people." Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings? Questions for Discussion
  • Collins states in the Introduction to the book, "I'd like to say we planned the timing, but we began this project in 1996 and had no idea that it would fit perfectly the zeitgeist of 2001. We got lucky." Do you believe that Collins and his team of researchers were simply "lucky"? Why or why not?
  • What do you think of the research methods employed by Collins and his team? Do you agree with the methods that they used? What would you have done differently?
  • One of the most crucial criteria set forth was the requirement for companies to have achieved success and maintained it for fifteen years. "We picked fifteen years because it would transcend one-hit wonders and lucky breaks (you can't just be lucky for fifteen years) and would exceed the average tenure of most chief executive officers (helping us to separate great companies from companies that just happened to have a single great leader)." Do you agree with this assessment? How would the results of the study have differed if this particular criteria had been altered?
  • The research team identified a series of steps that characterize good-to-great transitions: Level 5 Leadership, First Who…Then What, Confront the Brutal Facts, The Hedgehog Concept, A Culture of Discipline, Technology Accelerators, and The Flywheel and the Doom Loop. Which of these factors is the most crucial to a company's success? Do you think it is imperative for a successful company to have all of these factors?
  • Collins called Level 5 Leadership "one of the most provocative [steps] of the whole study." Do you agree? Of the CEOs profiled in the book, who do you think most exemplifies the qualities of Level 5 leadership? Explain why you chose this person.
  • Collins and his team "were surprised by the list" of good-to-great companies: Abbott, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Nucor, Philip Morris, Putney Bowes, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo. Were you surprised by the companies that appeared on the list? Are there any companies that you expected to appear that were absent?
  • He also says that "this became the first of many surprises that led us to reevaluate our thinking about corporate greatness." The fact that they were surprised means that they went into the study with certain assumptions. What were those assumptions?
Questions for Discussion about Both Books
  • The catalyst for Good to Great came about in part because a McKinsey partner remarked to Jim Collins that the companies written about in Built to Last "were, for the most part, always great. They never had to turn themselves from good companies into great companies… But what about the vast majority of companies that wake up and part way through life and realize that they're good, but not great?" What do you think of this statement? What is there to be learned from each of the books?
  • Jim Collins said that Good to Great is a prequel to Built to Last. Do you see it this way? Do the two books work in tandem with one another?
  • In Good to Great, Wells Fargo is profiled as one of the "good-to-great" companies. In Built to Last, Wells Fargo is not one of the visionary companies but rather the comparison for visionary company American Express. Discuss the implications of this.
  • Collins states, "We believe that almost any organization can substantially improve its stature and performance, perhaps even become great, if it conscientiously applies the framework of ideas we've uncovered." Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? In what instances do you think the concepts set forth in Good to Great and Built to Last would work best? In what instance do you think they would not be successful? Do you think the theories laid out in each of the books can be applied to any industry?
  • Which of the company success stories did you find the most surprising, and why?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 184 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 184 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 14, 2010

    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 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!

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2011

    Assigned Reading - Wasted Time

    This book was required reading for the company's annual store managers meeting in Las Vegas. Time was assigned in the agenda for discussion groups and roundtables to explore it's merits. So we all (most of us) dutifully read this tedious work only to find that any sessions related to the book were cancelled due to "Questions concerning the book's relevance" and designated free time or the Corporate version of "Basket Weaving". The flawed process allowed companies with creative accounting practices to appear greater than reality. I am a avid reader both personally and professionally. Reading this took hours of my life I'll never get back...

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2012

    I thought this book was well written and a pleasure to read. Whi

    I thought this book was well written and a pleasure to read. While reading I could not help but wonder where are these companies now? Many are no longer in business and several have been able to continue with their success. Circuit City, Fannie Mae, and Gillette are three that are no longer “great”. Two that seem to still be thriving are Walgreens and Wells Fargo. Although three out of the eleven companies studied are no longer in business I do not think this discredits Collins’ work. His overall message that, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice” can still be applied to anyone who wants to enhance their company.

    The book is instructive and accessible and I think this is a great book to add to the curriculum for all business students. By using metaphors Collins makes his ideas easy to understand and follow which will become critical as future business executives try to emulate. He gives concrete examples of company’s successes and failures and then applies tangible models that are easy to imitate. I also believe that this book goes beyond just a business book. This book can be used for several different professions and for the overall betterment of one’s life. We all look to become an effective leader, find something that we are truly good at, and surround ourselves with people who help achieve our goals. Sometime in life it better to think like Collins and not always try to come up with the answers, but better to ask the right questions.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • 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 September 15, 2012

    Good book for organizational leaders.

    This book has several pointers for the organizational leader. These are tried and true methods used by organizations who's success spaned decades.

    1 out of 1 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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  • 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    Great book

    I am enjoying the book and learning a lot. The only con is I can not see any of the charts or graphs. I had to borrow my friends book to view the graphics.

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  • Posted July 31, 2012

    Recommended reading - but can't see graphics

    I'm never disappointed with any of Jim Collins books. This was very good and had some surprising conclusions for me. But, as a book, the information was great, but as a Nook book, the graphics were terrible, and almost impossible to read. I would recommend to stay away from the Nook version and buy the Book.

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  • Posted July 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Incredible! Highly recommend

    Impeccably-well researched. A bit repetetive, but only to emphasize the points. Looking forward to applying these concepts.

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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 12, 2012

    Good book, some spelling and other errors in the Nook book

    The book itself is pretty good. It's not one I would have picked up on my own to read, it was for school. So in that light I thought it was good. Definitely learned a few things. I was a little surprised to find spelling and other errors in the text, but then I've found that in several ebooks I have read.
    Barnes & Noble, it would be a good idea to spell & error check your ebooks a bit better. Thanks!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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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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  • Posted March 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A must read for successful leaders and CEO'S

    A must read for successful leaders and CEO'S

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2012

    faceek

    picturesx

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