What does it take to make something—an activity, a work of art, a company—great? What are the factors that distinguish the merely good from the truly great? In Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, Jim Collins offers insight into what makes a business truly great.
As the adage goes, “good” can be an enemy of “great”: it can stop us from striving for more. It keeps us satisfied and content with something that is above average but not outstanding. In the business world, some companies are great from their inception; most companies, however, have to work hard to get to “good.” Only some will ever reach greatness. Others get stuck in the good category, unable to make that final breakthrough that sets the few apart from the majority. Good to Great offers a way to understand what the distinguishing factors are between the companies that make it to “great” and the companies that do not. Findings are based on a comparative study between companies that made the move from good to great and sustained great results for at least 15 years and companies that failed to make the leap or, if they did, failed to sustain it.
With interviews with executives, empirical data, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and more, it becomes possible to explain what accounts for the difference between good and great companies. There are seven key principles to which great companies adhere across the board; by comparison, companies that failed to become great were notable for the ways in which they did not adhere to these principles. Any organization can dramatically improve its performance if it applies the principles of companies that have transformed themselves from good to great.
Key insights for this book is:
- Great leaders combine tremendous personal humility with unwavering professional resolve. They are not focused on personal gains but on setting up the whole company for success.
- Hiring the right people for a company is the most important first step to greatness. Before deciding the “what” of strategy, vision, and organization, it is important to decide the “who” by identifying the people who will help execute major decisions.
- Companies that are trying to become great must force themselves to confront brutal facts and difficult realities in order to address them. At the same time, however, they must maintain a belief that they can prevail in becoming great.
- A company must be best at its core competency to become great. This means understanding what the company is truly best at doing—not just what it wants to be best at or thinks it should be best at—and sticking to this competency consistently.
- Going from good to great requires a culture of discipline. This does not mean having a leader who disciplines employees harshly but hiring people who are self-disciplined and committed to focusing their energy on the company’s core competency.
- Technology neither makes a company great nor makes it fail. Rather, great companies use technology as a way to accelerate momentum in line with their core competency.
- The transformation from good to great does not come in a dramatic swoop or sudden action. It is a long process that requires persistent effort.
- These principles are timeless and they apply even in a rapidly changing business world. Economies are always evolving and even if the present challenges look different from past ones, the principles for reaching greatness remain the same.