Jim Collins and his research team conducted a five-year research study to learn what it takes for a good company to become great. As the author of Built to Last, where he on what attributes long lasting great companies possessed, he was then curious about how companies who were good actually became great. This book is about the attributes needed to make a good company great. They studied companies who showed performance gain more than three times greater than the market and compared them to similar companies in the same industries to determine what the great companies did differently.
They identified six key components to companies that transitioned from good to great. Those include Level 5 Leadership, First Who…then What, Confront the Brutal Facts, the Hedgehog Concept, a Culture of Discipline and Technology as an Accelerator. Collins and his research team determined that all of these collectively were what made a good company great. They also identified the Flywheel and the Doom Loop and discussed the relationship from Good to Great and Built to Last.
Although the researchers specifically tried NOT to tie Good to Great companies with leadership, it was unavoidable. They noted that every company had what they deemed a Level 5 leader. These leaders embodied a sense of humility and a stamina and will for company success, not personal success. They sought people to succeed them who had a similar mentality and did not attempt to set their successors up for failure to inflate their own personal ego. They rarely took credit for their own involvement in the company’s success and they were steadfastly determined to achieve results. Finally, when things went wrong rather than looking to blame others, they looked at themselves and took responsibility. The researchers found that in comparison companies, companies that hired “celebrity” leaders (high profile, high ego), the companies lost profits and market share. They also found that Level 5 leaders tended to attribute their success to luck rather than personal achievements.
The researchers found that in every Good to Great company the Level 5 leader focused on getting the right people in the company. They referred to it as getting the “right” people on the bus and the “wrong” people off the bus. The right people were determined based on values -- strong character, a good work ethic and dedication. Those who could not live up to the expectations of the company were invited to get off the bus. Once the right people were on board, the leaders then engaged them in determining the direction of the company. The what was always secondary. Interestingly the research found that these companies did not pay more for the best people, they offered the right kind of culture to attract the best people.
The book emphasizes being willing to face the facts in front of you, regardless how harsh they may be, and create a culture that values truth and honesty. The Stockdale Paradox is named after Admiral Stockdale, a prisoner of war. He said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” Collins presented a structure to follow that encourages a culture allowinf for the brutal truth. First, lead with questions, question everything. Second, allow for open dialogue and debate. Third, investigate issues without blame. And finally, allow people at any time to voice their opinion and put a stop to current practices if they feel they are detrimental to the operation. One interesting finding was if this culture was not created, then people lost motivation.
TheHedgehog Concept is based on the story of the “Hedgehog and the Fox” where the fox continues to look for clever ways to attack the hedgehog. The hedgehog continues to fend off the fox by simply rolling up in a ball and releasing its spikes. The fox continues to devise other plans. Collins suggests that the hedgehog is able to simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, which he then deemed the Hedgehog Concept. Important to note that most of the Good to Great companies had a council of sorts that was focused on keeping the company within these three circles – What you can be the best at, what can be profitable and what are you deeply passionate about. Also, Collins found that it took every Good to Great company considerable time and debate to develop their Hedgehog Concept.
A culture of discipline ties directly to finding the right “who.” With the right people, companies can focus on their hedgehog concept and act accordingly, staying away from alluring ideas that seem profitable but pull attention and resources away from the Hedgehog Concept. This is not to say that the concept can never change. That’s why the council is so important. Another interesting discovery of Collins was some of the Good to Great companies created “stop doing” lists rather than “to do” lists.
The focus of this chapter was on how Good to Great companies used technology to enhance their business. Although they all used advanced technology, none were pioneers of this technology unless it directly related to their hedgehog concept. In many cases they were slow to implement new technologies, ensuring the technology would have a positive impact before jumping on the bandwagon. Technology is considered a tool.
Collins likens Good to Great breakthroughs to a flywheel. They often spent many years building momentum until eventually they “appeared” to have a breakthrough. When indeed it was not a breakthrough as much as it was someone finally took notice of the developments. Transformation took years. Additionally, when the right people were on board with the right hedgehog concept, motivational techniques were not needed. People wanted to be part of it. Companies in the doom loop are the ones who attempt to use breakthrough as a means to propel the company, jumping on the next best thing. They are inconsistent in efforts and lack extensive thought in plans and processes.
The final chapter of the book focused on the connection between Good to Great and Built to Last, Collins’ previous book. He believes that Good to Great is the prequel to Built to Last and is the foundation for what makes companies great and then implementing Built to Last concepts will sustain that greatness. How does this relate to schools? A Level 5 leader in schools would be solely dedicated to the growth and education of students. Relentlessly focused and demanding nothing but the same dedication from faculty and staff. First Who…much of today’s debate focuses on getting the right teachers in schools, focusing on accountability. Confronting the brutal facts – this may be the hardest part for teachers and administrators. This is where we need to create the stop doing list. We also need to focus on where the country is going and what our students need to be prepared for. We may have the hedgehog concept down, focusing on student achievement, research-based practice and focus on positive test results. What we may be lacking is the culture of discipline and not falling into the trap of trying the next greatest thing, or abandoning strategies before we give them time to work. Finally, we need to use technology to aid student learning, not simply to implement new technology.
Good to Great - Zajac
Good to Greatby Jim Collins<br />Jennifer Zajac<br />Fundamentals of Educational Administration<br />Kent State University<br />
Research<br />Five-year research study<br />Criteria - triple market performance over a 15 year period<br />Included a comparison study<br />Identified key differential components<br />
Findings<br />Level 5 Leadership<br />First Who…Then What<br />Confront the Brutal Facts (but don’t lose faith)<br />The Hedgehog Concept<br />A Culture of Discipline<br />Technology Accelerator<br />The Flywheel and the Doom Loop<br />
Level 5 Leadership<br />Personal humility and professional will<br />Set successors up for success<br />Humble<br />Determined to achieve results<br />Window and Mirror<br />
First Who…Then What<br />First, get the right people on board<br />Character, work ethic, basic intelligence, dedication to fulfilling commitments, values<br />Then determine a direction for the company<br />Comparable pay<br />
Confront the Brutal Facts<br />Stockdale Paradox<br />Culture that appreciates truth<br />Lead with questions<br />Dialogue and debate<br />Investigate<br />Red flag mechanism<br /><ul><li>Ignoring the facts de-motivates people</li></li></ul><li>The Hedgehog Concept<br />Create a council to “Confront the brutal facts” and keep the company focused on the three circles<br />Takes time to develop (avg. 4 yrs.)<br />
Technology Accelerators<br />Technology is an accelerator, not the focus<br />Crawl, walk, run<br />
The Flywheel and the Doom Loop<br />Buildup leads to breakthrough<br />No focus on “motivating the troops”<br />Doom Loop<br />Attempt to do the “next best thing” with no lead up<br />Embrace fads<br />Inconsistent<br />Lack of forethought<br />
Implications for Schools<br />Level 5 Leadership – child focused<br />First Who then What – dedicated faculty and staff deciding on what will help students learn<br />Confront the Brutal Facts – what isn’t working<br />The Hedgehog Concept – passion for the culture and teaching, what strategies work for us, positive test results<br />Culture of Discipline<br />Technology Accelerators – how will technology help students learn, not simply use it to show we can<br />