20 September 2022
  • Industry Insight

Good to Great – Book Highlights

Jim Collins is an author known for his books Good to Great, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall and other popular titles. In this title, Collins studies how some companies have had long-term success while others have failed. 

Here’s an overview of some key learnings from his research and how you can use that information for your own career or business:

Level 5 Leaders

Throughout his book, Jim Collins discusses the idea of a ‘Level 5 leader’, noting that often great businesses have a Level 5 Leader at the helm.

So what is a Level 5 Leader?

Level 5 Leaders have a compelling vision that takes the organisation to heights rarely reached by others (and sometimes not even dreamt of). For example, Jeff Bezos saw that selling books over the internet could be successful, years before most people did. Then he took it even further than anyone could imagine with Amazon now selling everything from groceries to clothing.

Level 5 Leaders have a deep sense of personal humility.

They are modest, self-effacing people who do not trumpet their own abilities or achievements. Level 5 Leaders don’t talk about themselves at all, in fact; they focus on the team and the project at hand.

Level 5 Leaders have a strong sense of personal integrity.

They are honest, open and sincere; you know where you stand with them because they’re not afraid to tell you when they disagree with something or think it’s time for change.

First Who, Then What

According to Collins, the first step to becoming a great company is hiring the right people. 

More important than choosing your customers, your products and services, or even your mission statement, is picking out a group of people who are great at what they do.

The best way to hire good employees? 

Do some research and be picky! 

Hire slow, fire fast; that is Collins’s advice. 

You should also make sure that whoever you hire has an attitude that matches up with yours – if they don’t have such an attitude yet, but have potential for it – train them into it.

Collins recommends hiring people who have a track record of success (experience) as opposed to just being smart (intelligence).

In other words, if someone has proven themselves as being really good at something in the past then there’s a good chance they’ll continue doing so well in their future endeavors too. 

This means not only looking at how well someone has done but also considering how hard-working he/she has been throughout those projects, because the two go hand-in-hand when determining whether or not someone deserves this position within your company.

Confront the brutal facts

To begin, you must recognise the brutal facts. Do not deny them. Do not dismiss them. Admit to yourself that they are true and that you cannot change them. 

In order to be great, you must accept the truth and begin a journey of self-discovery to discover who you really are.

Once you have recognised and accepted the harsh realities of your situation, it’s time for discipline. As Collins explains, ‘To build a culture of discipline in an organisation is like trying to land an aircraft carrier on a dime.’ 

The key here is consistency: If everyone agrees on what needs to be done (or not done), then there will be no confusion about where or how things need improving – it’s just a matter of doing it consistently over time until improvement happens automatically without anyone having to think about it too much.

The Hedgehog Concept

The Hedgehog Concept is the framework Jim Collins uses to describe what it takes for a business to go from good to great. It’s based on three circles that, when overlapping, create one unified concept:

  • The circle of people: Great companies are comprised of people who are passionate, disciplined and aligned with the goals of the company.

  • The circle of process: Great companies have a clear organisational process that helps them achieve their goals in an effective way. They don’t waste time or resources, they’re always looking for ways to improve and they’re willing to change their processes as needed.

  • The circle of results: Great companies focus on getting better everyday by focusing on their vision and mission statement while staying true to who they are at their core (their values). They also strive for continuous improvement by setting ambitious goals each year and then focusing all efforts at achieving those goals. 

A Culture of Discipline

Discipline is the key to success. 

Discipline is the key to happiness. 

Discipline is the key to peace. 

Discipline is the key to becoming a great leader.

If you’re going to be really good at something, it’s not enough just to want it or even feel capable of doing it – you need discipline: the ability to act despite your feelings and desires; an iron will that allows one to push through pain, fatigue and fear toward goals that seem unattainable at times; self-control over urges, distractions and distractions from others (including friends) who might try directing you away from your goal(s). And while most people think they possess this trait in some way, few actually do so consistently enough for their persistence to truly matter when measured against those who do.

Conclusion

Good to Great is a book I find myself reaching for and re-reading yearly. It’s a fact-focused book, with straightforward advice on how you can take your business from Good to Great.

 

Pete Heslop

Managing Director at Steadfast Collective, Pete's key focus is on building a team of smart creatives who build community-focused web applications.

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