Released in 2001, I'd been recommended Good to Great on several occasions by different people or varying reasons. So, I figured it would be a good read and able to address a broad range of topics.
The approach: with a dedicated research team and years of work, Jim Collins and crew find companies that went from being good operations to being great operations. By doing so, these organizations were able to financially outperform their industries and the market as a whole. Quite impressive.
Collins systematizes what allowed these companies to transition so well. Kroger was crawling along, neck and neck with A&P, and then all of a sudden, BAM! It flew off the charts and today none of us head to the A&P for our groceries. Kroger, like others, (Circuit City, Walgreens, Wells Fargo, Gillette, and more) had great leadership, the right people on the right team, a clear identity and mission, leveraged technology well, and became a company that was built to last.
The book is not so much a how-to manual, because several ideas and businesses will just never make it. But, with common threads identified, there are some ideas on how to improve certain areas within your organization. This is why I recommended buying this book (as opposed to borrowing it) – you can pick it up when the need arises so that inspiration may come by looking to industry benchmarks.
The key point for me of the entire book is Collins' hedgehog concept. Using three interlocking circles (like a Venn diagram), Collins encourages readers to find that point at which the following meet:
- What you can be the best in the world at
- What drives your economic engine
- What you are deeply passionate about
Where these answers intersect is what you need to hone in on, as several great companies have realized. I feel that this intersection is also applicable to your personal life and work. Answer these questions and find the matching job, and should be fulfilled in what you do for money.
I am. This is why the last words of the book resonate so deeply with me:
So, the question of Why greatness? is almost a nonsense question. If you're engaged in work that you love and care about, for whatever reason, then the question needs no answer.
Perhaps your quest to be part of building something great will not fall in your business life. But find it somewhere. If not in corporate life, then perhaps in making your church great. In not there, the perhaps a nonprofit, or a community organization, or a class you teach. Get involved in something that you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be, not because of what you will get, but just because it can be done.
When all these pieces come together, not only does your work move toward greatness, but so does your life. For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps, then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you've had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfaction: knowing that your short time here on this earth has been well spent, and that it mattered.
Many thanks to Gavin, who loaned me the book. Now I just need to follow my own advice and go buy it.