Good to Great

Jim Collins

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?

About the Author

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of leadership and what makes great companies tick.

Having invested a quarter century of research into the topic, he has authored or co-authored six books that have sold in total more than ten million copies worldwide. They include: GOOD TO GREAT, the #1 bestseller, which examines why some companies and leaders make the leap to superior results, along with its companion work GOOD TO GREAT AND THE SOCIAL SECTORS; the enduring classic BUILT TO LAST, which explores how some leaders build companies that remain visionary for generations; HOW THE MIGHTY FALL, which delves into how once-great companies can self-destruct; and most recently, GREAT BY CHOICE, which is about thriving in chaos – why some do, and others don’t – and the leadership behaviors needed in a world beset by turbulence, disruption, uncertainty, and dramatic change.

Driven by a relentless curiosity, Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. In 1995, he founded a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, where he conducts research and engages in Socratic dialogue with CEOs and senior leadership teams. In addition to his work in the business sector, Jim has passion for learning and teaching in the social sectors, including education, healthcare, government, faith-based organizations, social ventures, and cause-driven non-profits. In 2012 and 2013, he had the honor to serve a two-year appointment as the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematical sciences and an MBA from Stanford University, and honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Colorado and the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.

He is an avid rock climber, with one-day ascents of the north face of Half Dome and the 3,000 foot south face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.