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Buy Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t At Amazon!

Monday, March 4th, 2013

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

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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 verybeginning.

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 world’s 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?

    • Amazon Sales Rank: #124 in Books
    • Published on: 2001-10
    • Released on: 2001-10-16
    • Original language: English
    • Number of items: 1
    • Binding: Hardcover
    • 300 pages

    Features

    Rare Pathways to Exceptionally Increased Prosperity4
    This study was stimulated by Mr. Bill Meehan’s (head of McKinsey in San Francisco) observation that Built to Last wasn’t very helpful to companies, because the firms studied had always been great. Most companies have been good, and never great. What should these firms do?

    Jim Collins and his team have done an enormous amount of interesting work to determine whether a good company can be come a great company, and how. The answer to the former question is “yes,” assuming that the 11 of 1435 Fortune 500 companies did not make it there by accident. The answer to the latter is less clear. The study group identified a number of characteristics that their 11 companies had in common, which were much less frequently present in comparison companies. However, the study inexplicably fails to look at these same characteristics to see how often they succeed in the general population of companies. If these characteristics work 100 percent of the time, you really have something. If they work 5 percent of the time, then not too much is proven.

    How were the 11 study companies selected? The criteria take pages to explain in an appendix. Let me simplify by saying that their stock price growth had to be in a range from somewhat lower than to not much higher than the market averages for 15 years. Then, in the next 15 years the stocks had to soar versus the market averages and comparison companies while remaining independent. That’s hard to do. The selected companies are Abbott Laboratories, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Nucor, Philip Morris, Pitney Bowes, Walgreen, and Wells Fargo.

    As to the “how,” attention was focused on what happened before and during the transition from average performance to high performance. Interviews, quantitative analyses, and business press reports were studied. Clearly, there’s a tendency to see things a little bit with 20-20 hindsight in such a situation. Since this study started in 1996, it was dealing with facts that were already quite old while they were being examined. Bias is likely.

    The key conclusions as to “how” included the following:

    (1) a series of CEOs (promoted from within) who combined “personal humility and professional will” focused on making a great company;

    (2) an initial focus on eliminating weak people, adding top performing ones, and establishing a culture of top talent putting out extraordinary effort;

    (3) then shifting attention to staring at and thinking unceasingly about the hardest facts about the company’s situation;

    (4) using facts to develop a simple concept that is iteratively reconsidered to focus action on improving performance;

    (5) establishing and maintaining a corporate culture of discipline built around commitments, with freedom about how to meet those promises;

    (6) using technology to accelerate progress when it fits the company’s concept of what it wants to become; and

    (7) the company builds momentum from consistent efforts behind its concept that are reinforced by success.

    Then, a connection is made to how these 7 conditions can provide the foundation for establishing a Built to Last type of company that can outperform the competition over many decades.

    One potential criticism of the study is that its conclusions could be dated. Former Stanford professor Collins argues that he has uncovered basic facts about human organizations that will be unchanging.

    I compared the conclusions in this book with my own studies of top performing CEOs and companies in the 1988-2001 time period. I noticed two major differences that suggest a shift in “best practice” standards. First, those who outperform now have developed processes that create major improvements in their operating business models every 2-5 years. Second, senior management development is focused around improving a culture for defining and implementing such improvements. I suspect that item (4) above was an embryonic predecessor to these new dimensions, which occur much more frequently now than in this study.

    Next, I compared the list of 7 items to what I had observed in companies. The biggest point that hit me is how few CEOs have been interested in creating long-term outperformance that lasts past their own tenure in an industry. You also have to be a CEO for a long time with that focus before you have a chance to make a lasting impact. Founders have a special advantage here. Perpetuating outperformance may help fill a psychological need for immortality that fits with founders especially well.

    Finally, I thought about what I knew about the companies studied from personal contacts during the study years. My sense is that their stories are far more complex than is captured here. So, I think the data have probably been “scrunched” to fit together in some cases. In particular, I wonder whether these companies will greatly outperform in the next 15 years. In many cases, they expanded to meet an unfilled need that is now largely fulfilled. Can they develop a new concept for (4) that will carry them forward as successfully in the future? My guess is that most will not. If that turns out to be the case, we must conclude that the items on this list may be necessary . . . but may not be sufficient to go permanently from good to great. Time will tell.

    Before closing, let me observe that if the research team had also looked at the rate by which their principles succeeded among companies that employed them, this would have been one of the very finest research studies on best practices that I have seen. A book like this will provoke much discussion and thought for years to come. Perhaps that information can be included in a future edition or printing. Then, we will have something magnificent to consider!

    Do you want to be the best permanently? Why? Or, why not? Mr. Collins points out that it probably takes no more effort, but a lot more discipline and focus.

    Good to Great + consistent Optimal Thinking = Best5
    This book is a fascinating read! A study taken over five years began with twenty-eight corporations and revealed eleven that had made the leap from Good to Great. From this study, I gained an instant understanding of the role of humility in leadership. The primary ambition of great leaders is focused on the success of their company, not on themselves.

    Collins advocates the Hedgehog Concept - a combination of discovering what you can be best in the world at (Optimal Thinking), what you are passionate about, and what drives your economic engine. Collins states that sustained disciplined action is primarily achieved by “fanatical adherence to the Hedgehog Concept and the willingness to shun opportunities that fall outside the three circles.” So my question is: How do you identify the best? I recommend Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self by Dr. Rosalene Glickman as an adjunct to this powerful book to provide the mental resource to identify the best, optimize emotional and financial intelligence and create a corporate culture of optimization. From Good to Greatest to Best!”

    Good to great is a great book4
    I really do not understand the sub five star let alone the 1 star reviews. This is a great book. A lot of time and research was done to find what separates the good from the great companies. I can only assume that sub 5 star reviewers own businesses that are doing doing that great or are not in business at all…anymore.

    Great book for those who want to learn how to take your business to that next level. The level of greatness.