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Book Review: Good to Great

Updated: Aug 22, 2018


Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

by Jim Collins

The Gist

Solid for any leader. You could read the last page of each chapter and walk away with a decent understanding of the concepts, but Collins provides great anecdotes and solid exposition to further detail his ideas.

The Concept

Jim Collins and his team identified specific qualities of companies that became great when comparable companies stalled or failed. He discusses three stages of development---disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action--and each stage has two embedded concepts. These stages are pushed forward via a continual (and at times, slow) growth of momentum.



While I have no doubt similar concepts exist, the crazy amounts of research and in-depth analysis Collins and his team put into this book no doubt qualifies this book as truly original. Ideas like "get the right people on the bus" or "discuss the we not the I" are obviously found in other leadership literature; however, the framework he provides is unique and very understandable. Score: 10

Practical Application

If an educational leader is looking for solid research-based concepts to develop a focused plan for growing a department, campus, or district, then there are several pieces of this book that you could implement immediately. The book is an analysis of businesses making the move from good to great, but it will not take any mental gymnastics to see the direct implications for schools and districts. From being rigorous in staffing to leading with questions instead of answers, from identifying what you can (not want) to be the best at to being creative about the utilization of technology, Collins provides multiple strategies for making positive changes to any organization. However, without direct examples of how school districts are implementing the concepts found in this book, I'll have to conceded that you will at least need to put in a minor amount of work to apply these concepts tomorrow. Score: 6

Entertainment Value

While definitely not boring, the formula Collins uses throughout the book---here's a good company that became great and here's a comparable bad company that didn't and here's what we can learn from this---can get a little repetitive at times. I think the anecdotes and excerpts from various interviews were well-paced enough to keep things moving, but there are a few slow points throughout. Score: 9

Numbers and Visuals

Particularly if you're interested in seeing the numbers behind how Collins and his team identified the good-to-great companies, you are in luck. The appendices are packed with the specific methodologies used throughout the team's research process. In addition, visuals such as the triple Venn used to explain the Hedgehog Concept (below) were great in helping you visualize the concepts discussed throughout the book. Score: 10


So, yeah, you'll leave this book with multiple years worth of follow-up reading selections even if you just skim through the appendices. Score: 10

Top Takeaways

I enjoyed pretty much every part of this book, but even multiple weeks after I completed the book, two sections stuck in my brain.

The first is such a brief anecdote that I feel most people skip right over it on their first reading of this book, but I found it to be such a powerful concept. Collins describes how Dave Scott, a six-time Ironman triathlete, would rinse his cottage cheese in order to remove any excess fat from his diet. The connection Collins made was with the discipline they identified in the good-to-great companies. Scott's routine was the perfect analogy for explaining how disciplined action creates the slight edge you need to make the move toward greatness. I love the concept of taking small, disciplined steps in order to make large gains.

The second concept that resonated with me is very similar to the cottage cheese idea: the "flywheel" concept. One particular quote was particularly awesome:

"Good to great comes about by a cumulative process---step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel---that adds up to sustained and spectacular results."

I think too often, particularly in education, we want to make large gains immediately. And it's not because of some selfish or foolish desire to be great; we simply want the best for our kids, now rather than later. But the large gains typically only come after the right decisions and actions are implemented and given time to play out.

Criteria Score: 45 / Time Commitment: Approx. 8.75 Hours (45 / 8.75 = 5.1)

Read my post on my book review rating system to see how and why I developed this specific scoring system.

Support my blog (i.e. help me cover the hosting costs) by purchasing this book using my Amazon Affiliate link (also linked at the top).


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