Using catchy phrases like "rigorous, not ruthless," Collins repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the "right people." Being rigorous and attracting the right people means hiring self-motivated and creative individuals committed to the organization and who can be guided without being tightly managed. With the current emphasis on human resources, Collins' advice will ring true for many managers reading Good to Great. Hiring and keeping the right staff may be one of the keys to success for organizations. Moreover, Collins claims that good-to-great organizations resist restructuring and layoffs, instead placing an emphasis on keeping the "right people" on the team for good.
Collins advises managers to "Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith)" in Chapter 4. In keeping with his theme on pragmatism, Collins compares a&P to Kroger to show the difference between mediocre success and greatness. The two grocery giants started off in nearly the same manner but only Kroger and its executive leaders were able to accept the death of the old model of grocery store. Kroger became willing to change their business model to welcome the model that persists today: the superstore chain with branded items and strategic locations. a&P did not confront the brutal facts and as a result, their business languished.
Similarly, Collins shows how the "hedgehog" model has ensured success for good-to-great companies like Walgreens. Unlike its pharmacy competitor Eckerd, Walgreens implemented simple ideas with remarkable efficiency, merely offering customers more convenient clustered locations that increased profits on per-customer visits. Hedgehogs patiently pursue a goal of greatness, are constantly on the lookout for dangers and acknowledge the need for change. The Hedgehog model company focuses on its strengths and determinately pursues its passions. By understanding what the company is capable of and by knowing its limitations, it strives to become the best in its field. Collins outlines the Hedgehog model in Chapter 5.
To become the best in its field the good-to-great organization also pursues a culture of discipline, which Collins describes in Chapter 6. Creative discipline is not authoritarian but supportive; members of the organization have freedom but work within a meaningful framework. As a result, the organization does not pursue unrealistic goals and is not seduced by flashy opportunities. Collins suggests that organizations develop a "stop doing list" to encourage disciplined action.
Discipline comes into play in the ways good-to-great companies integrate technology into their operations. Rather than implement technology for technology's sake, good-to-great organizations use technology as a tool specific to their needs. Technology never prevents a great company from losing its footing or discipline. Technology, according to Collins in Chapter 7, "Technology Accelerators," accelerates change and can help an organization remain competitive and on-target with goals. Rarely does technology actually catalyze the shift from goodness to greatness. In the following chapter Collins claims that great companies use acquisitions as accelerators, rather than as instigators, of change.
In Chapter 8, Collins describes the difference between "The Flywheel and the Doom Loop." The flywheel image encapsulates the method by which good companies make the leap to greatness. Pushing a flywheel requires an enormous about of hard work, which pays off with "sustained and spectacular results," and the perpetuation of positive momentum (p. 165). According to Collins, great companies do not perceive their transformation as being a singular, miraculous event. Instead, the transformation from goodness to greatness involves steady growth, patience, and disciplined action.
Finally, good-to-great companies are built to last. In the final chapter of Good to Great, Collins addresses the reasons great organizations do last: including their ability to stick to their core values and their continued ascription to the principles of greatness outlined in the book: disciplined people, disciplined culture, and disciplined actions. In Chapter 9, Collins also describes the difference between good long-term goals and bad. Good BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) stem from passions, abilities, and what drives the company's economic engine. Long-term goals should reflect the interface between core values and core dreams. The pursuit of greatness can, according to Collins, transform individual lives and communities as well as organizations.
Because Collins' book is well-researched, based on documented case studies, Good to Great is a valuable resource for management professionals. A series of appendixes offers the technical data to accompany Collins' claims that greatness can…