Professional Development Bookshelf: Reviews of books
that teach us about our craft By: CW5 Thomas Golden Command Chief Warrant Officer Georgia Army National Guard
he book “Good to Great –Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins, and published by Harper Business, in my opinion,is one of the best leadership books of the 21st century. It is an impressive book whether the reader is in a formal leadership position or an informal one. As the book’s 300-plus pages progress, Collins addresses the question, “is it possible for a good company to become a ‘Great’ company?”He and his team did an exceptional amount of work to answer that question and how. The answer, of course, is “yes,” assuming that the 11 out of 1435 Fortune 500 companies that the team studied did not make it there by accident. In its research, Collins’ team identified 11 companies that followed a pattern of “15-year cumulative stock returns, at or below the general stock market– punctuated by a transition point – then cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next 15 years.” Public companies, according to the author, were selected because of the availability of comparable data. Fifteen-year segments were chosen to weed out the one-hit wonders and “lucky breaks.” While these selection criteria exclude “new economy” companies, Collins contends that there is nothing new about the new economy, citing earlier technology innovations of electricity, the telephone and the transistor. Collins also maps out three stages, each with two key
concepts. These six concepts are the heart of “Good to Great,” and he devotes a chapter to explaining each of them: Level 5 leadership, first who...then what, confront the brutal facts, the hedgehog concept, a culture of discipline, and technology accelerators Collins characterizes the Level 5 leader as “a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” The Level 5 leader, he writes, is not the corporate savior or turnaround expert. Most of the CEOs of the good to great companies – as they made the transition – were company insiders. “They were more concerned about what they could build, create and contribute, than what they could “get fame, fortune, adulation, power, whatever,” Collins adds. “No Ken Lay of Enron or Al Dunlap of Scott Paper, the larger-than-life CEO led a Good to Great company. This kind of executiveis concerned more with his, or her, own reputation for personal greatness, than with setting their company up for success in the next generation.” In this book, Jim Collins also challenges the notion that,“people are your most important asset” and postulates instead that,“the right people are.” Some leadership experts do not agree with that concept, so the reader must decide when he – or she – believes it is more important to get the right people on the bus, and then see where it goes, than it is to figure out where to go and get the right people who can “get you there”on the bus. However, Collins makes his point clearly, which allows the reader, I believe, to agree with him. This book is packed with leading edge thinking, clear examples and plenty of data to support Collins’ and his team’s conclusions. It is a challenging read in order to learn the tools and then exhibit the discipline required to move any organization from good to great.
June 2013 | 16