Built to Last, the defining management study of the '90s, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning.
But what about companies that are not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness? Are there those that convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? If so, what are the distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?
Over five years, Jim Collins and his research team have analyzed the histories of 28 companies, discovering why some companies make the leap and others don't. The findings include:
©2001 Jim Collins (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers
"Like Built to Last, Good to Great is one of those books that managers and CEOs will be reading and rereading for years to come." (Amazon.com review)
"If you believe that a visionary leader with a strong ego is an essential component of sustained business success, then Jim Collins has a few thousand words for you. His carefully researched audiobook explains that the success of companies that outperform the market for 15 years in a row comes from selfless leadership, rigorous focus, and a culture of discipline....[T]here's another reason this book has burst through as a bestseller, which you can feel in Collins's narration: He is honestly excited about his research and unconventional findings. (AudioFile)
More practical, more substance.
The books starts off with a great promise. Unlike the usual "7 habits of successful people" and "10 steps to success", the author announced right away that his study was properly conducted, it has a control sample, and that the book will not only talk about commonalities of the "good to great" companies, but will also talk about the NECESSARY and SUFFICIENT characteristics (not just necessary) and that it will discuss what "good to great" companies have that "good" companies don't and vice versa.
The author also promised not to fall into the trap of "if you can't explain it, blame it on leadership".
Well, he did.
The book turned out nothing but hours and hours of repeating the same main idea: it's all about the leadership. If you can't explain it, blame it on leadership. The only difference, the author invented a clever way to mask this obvious shortcoming by talking about "level 5" leadership. What that is is "putting company first", "being modest", "working hard", "making the right decisions", "having the right people" and other very trivial and useless advice. What the "right" people or the "right" decisions are, of course, depends on the specific case, so not much attention is devoted to that part.
The book is written in the language that you would hear from a professional consultant who charges a lot and tells you what everybody already knows, but in a language that makes it sound impressive and evidence based. Still, it all boils down to having the "right" leadership, making the "right" choices, having the "right" people, working "hard" and other common sense.
Charlie Seymour Jr
I'd heard SO much about this book but KNEW almost nothing. When it started, I worried that it was only for big business - but it's WAY more than that.
It's for entrepreneurs and nonprofits. It's for people who want to turn around their business life and kick it up several notches. It's for getting the right people on the bus first and always asking if what you're doing fits in the intersection of something you're passionate about, can be the best in the world at, and drives your economic engine.
I'll listen again... lots to gain from this very popular book.
Charlie Seymour Jr
Yes, the narrator is the author, so maybe that counts for something. But man, he just goes so far over the top over-weighting his words so often, it's pretty comical at times. The sample is a bit misleading, because Collins is just getting warmed up in that. A few more pages in, and He Is Speaking Like A Triumphant Graduate Student Who Has Just...Found...The...PROOF...That...Discipline -- DISCIPLINE! -- is the Key!
Narrative comedy aside, there is a lot of worthwhile information here, though when you boil it down there's a lot of the obvious here. Also in late 2010 the discussion of Circuit City and Fannie Mae as "great companies" is a bit ridiculous; and some of the companies discussed as great have attained their greatness in part by less-than-moral means that have come to light in the years of increasingly ubiquitous internet since the book's publication. Still, Collins' articulation is highly accessible and well-ordered, making "the obvious" easier to digest and retain. 4 stars for content, 2 stars for narration = 3 stars.
This is simply a must read for any leader who struggles with taking their team to a new level of productivity. The hardest part of going from good to great is when no one else has done what you are trying to do. This book provides some very simple principles giving you a roadmap to help you and your team understand what should be your main focus.
Writer, Reader, Former Bookseller (RIP Borders)
Well researched. Counter-intuitive conclusions. Easy to listen to narration. Definitely worth the time and money.
The author starts off by not grabbing my attention, but by making me sit through a long laundry list of the names of the contributors and other information that is highly personal to him, but especially boring to me at the beginning of an audio book. The author (who's the narrator too) then launches into a diatribe about the toil and effort and labor hours it took for the book followed by a trying-too-hard explanation of their research methodology with cliche' examples of "if you would have invested $1000 dollars in" back in …
I thought this part was over, but even after my coffee and breakfast, the author is still over emphasizing their research methodology and speaking of how they "pounded on tables" and other debate action with each other about the book. I continued to listen anyway, then I found him listing out another dry and boring laundry list of companies. When telling a story, Stephen King Points out: "don't tell us a thing, when you can show us" in his book On Writing. The author is "big" on telling us instead of showing us, effectively robbing the reader/listener of the experience of the discovery that a good and interesting story brings. I want to "discover" profound things as I go along, not names thrown at me all at once. He is still rambling about research methods at the 30 minute mark. "We call ourselves the chimps, in honor of our mascot Curious George" speaking still of how great their efforts were in their producing the book at the 32 minute mark. He speaks to us about the steak when we want to hear about the sizzle, let us taste the steak, not give us a molecular structure breakdown of it. Highly boring, this self-back patting is, I feel. I want to learn the unique information, not how hard they worked with Curious George cliché'(s) and table pounding meetings.
Road warrior, love listening ~ love learning
I know I am supposed to love this book, it's noted as a classic and business essential. Perhaps I am late to the book, finding the ideas and concepts no longer new rather common sense. There are good basic principles here in building the correct team, identifying where to focus and examining with questions in converse of answers. On the flip side I found BHAG, HedgeHog concepts and often the stories unentertaining and poor names to identify important themes that I will never call them by such in the business world.
There is no doubt a lot of truth in the message of this book. Clearly when it was written there was a great need for ego depletion and there were far to many over sized personalities running the business world. The idea that you don't have enough time or money to change the way people think, so just pick the right people and throw those that are not on board off the bus sounds like an idea that might work in a world of contracted projects. However the book also suggests that you should only promote the quiet steady employee that puts only the greater good of the company at the center of his life to the driving seat. What the book doesn't tell you is where these characters which they say have appeared guiding companies to 300% improvement can be found and why they would be that way.
I read this book because it was given a high rating by a lot of my work associates but I did not really feel that it took my base line of knowledge a lot further forward. It lacks the human factor that I want to see combined with good analysis.
It was one of those books that inspired me to read a lot of other books to quickly regain perspective and balance as it really did leave me with a sinking feeling.
There was some good concepts in this book and I enjoyed learing about other businesses; however, each topic was overbaked. I kept thinking to myself, "ok, I've got it! Get the right people on the bus... ok... move on already!" It was hard to stay focused during parts of this book.
I feel with all the readily available 'inspiration' online, there wasn't a ton of value here.
Disappointment in not choosing a better read.
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