Review and analysis of the NY TImes best seller by Jim Collins entitled "Good to Great."
Settling for Good, or Striving for Great
Jim Collins and his team of business analysts gathered facts, analyzed data, and have provided a framework to improve elements of management linked to achievement, and showing up in organization as “greatness.” Good organizations can become great, as illustrated by the eleven Fortune 500 companies whose data was collected and analyzed for a period of at least 15 years, and compared with similar companies. Businesses, organizations for profit, or non-profit, as well as individuals, can identify with the principles in “Good to Great”, and will agree with most conclusions to be drawn from the facts, and should begin developing a new perspective implementing elements of “greatness”.
According to Internet research and personal interviews, mediocrity often creates a comfort zone from which one is leery of leaving. If an individual finds employment in a profession that inspires his passion and creative thinking, he can be great. By answering the “Simplicity of Three Circles”--what can you do best in the world? What drives your economic engine? And, what are you passionate about? — one can self determine what his special calling is. Along with excellent skills for the job, and the opportunity to earn very good money, a passionate employee will prove a happy and productive employee.
An Internet search including the term “passionate” with “job” provides half dozen pages of employers and agencies searching for such an employee. If any one of these “great” elements is missing, the magic of greatness will never happen. Students in the leadership program should think long and seriously about personal interests, and how they can use their interests in their profession, rather than the paycheck expected, before starting a career with any organization.
“Hunter’s Job Guide: Labor Market Realities” quotes Andrea Sutcliffe, author of First-Job Survival Guide, as stating a simple, but seldom discerned truism about employer-employee relationships. “If you are expecting your boss or your company to take care of your needs and chart your career for you, you’ll almost certainly be disappointed. You, in fact, were hired to take care of their needs.” (http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/tjhg/labormarket.html).
The US Census Bureau reported that 2004 showed the “biggest rate of increase in self-employment” since 1997, when self-employed data analysis began. Examples of industries impacted by these passionate wage earners include real estate appraiser (19.1% growth), landscape and architectural services (14.6% growth), bed and breakfast inns (12.9% growth), and professional, scientific, and technical services (12.4% growth).
Putting “Good to Great” concepts into action, Sheri Spencer of Spencer Pest Control in Melbourne, Florida, praised the outcome she saw in her business
Addressing an annual leadership conference of “Pest Management and Environmental Science”, she noted only one problem. “Her senior employees now argue about who keeps their truck in best condition, ” demonstrating these employees take pride in their work. (http://www.pestcontrolmag.com/pestcontrol/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=136770). When employees have the freedom to accomplish tasks by using their own creative efforts, their production will far exceed those who must deal with structured, enumerated, detailed tasks dictated by a corporate bureaucracy.
Level Five Leadership qualities would seem to exist as an American cultural paradox. Donald Mitchell, founder of “The Billionaire Entrepreneurs’ Master Mind”, describes the ultimate manager/CEO as “one who has been promoted from within”, and possesses the unique combination of “professional will and personal humility”
American culture thrives on competition, from weekly seasonal sports activities, either played, observed or both. An element of self-assurance binds with one’s humility, and takes a proverbial back seat to the job’s accomplishment by one of greatness. Such an individual was President Harry Truman, who ended World War II by unleashing atomic weapons on man and earth. “You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets credit.” Humility is an immeasurable, yet surely one of the determining traits for those of greatness.
The culture of discipline as described in “Good and Great,” published by the former Stanford professor in 2001, seems in the present economy in the US, to be somewhat esoteric, simplified into a factual equation, and totally out of reach as a solution for the wage earner in today’s economy.
Too many well-educated and experienced professionals are able to secure only minimal wage jobs, which they accept in order to provide for their family’s basic financial needs. Whether applied to an individual or organization, the personal discipline of an individual, his disciplines of thought, and his discipline of actions, form the basis of a business culture with more than potential to be the best.
Collins’ study concluded that great organizations do not use new technology as a primary means of change. Passionate employees discuss, and then decide, what the organization can do well, and cannot do well. By focusing on the positive, and implementing technology that is precise to their needs, technology serves a purpose rather than creating chaos. Considering the impact of the World Wide Web during the years of this study, one can conclude that introducing technology for a specific purpose is the key factor.
As a student in the Leadership Program, I see my need to focus my decisions about future management opportunities by testing them with the hedgehog concept, and the three circles. Just because someone has invested a great deal of time in an organization, doing specific tasks over a long period of time, doesn’t predict that a person will have excellent skills or produce the outcome desired in the workplace.
I will seek a work environment that is pleasing, engaging, involves personal creativity, and encourages independent, active, problem solving and thinking because of what I have learned in my research.
The principal of the “Flywheel and Doom Loop” explains why organizations cannot expect overnight success, brought about by one phenomenal business tactic. Success of greatness comes from continuous small efforts that build upon themselves over a long period.
Sam Walton’s success with Walmart was “an outgrowth of everything we’d been doing since 1945. Overnight success was about 20 years in the making” (Collins, p 191). Walton’s strategies included making each employee feel like a member of the family, and financially sharing with that family.
An organization that begins with the right people, those having talent and passion, who are able to face brutal challenges and still keep their passion and enthusiasm, have the best of all employees. Organizations such as the Texas Work Force have incorporated Collins’ principles in their advice to job seekers. “Pay attention to local, national, and global job markets because jobs are created and destroyed because of technological advances and corporate restructuring”
Technology will continue to impact business in both positive and negative ways, and flexibility is necessary to maintain success. Perhaps even Phillip Morris can diversify further, and maintain their profit margins even though smokers become fewer every day. Kimberly-Clark reorganization allowed them to stay on top. As more companies implement the principles in “Good to Great”, a new standard for management may clear away old ideas that keep good companies from becoming great.
Collins, Jim. Good to Great. New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
Good to Great. October 13, 2003. http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/tjhg/labormarket.html.
Good to Great. November 27, 2006.
Good to Great. December 6, 2004.
Good to Great + Amazon.com. October 16, 2001.