Amidst the desolate landscape of fallen great companies, Jim Collins began to wonder: How do the mighty fall? Can decline be detected early and avoided? How far can a company fall before the path toward doom becomes inevitable and unshakable? How can companies reverse course?
In How the Mighty Fall, Collins confronts these questions, offering leaders the well-founded hope that they can learn how to stave off decline and, if they find themselves falling, reverse their course. Great companies can stumble, badly, and recover. Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline. There is no law of nature that the most powerful will inevitably remain at the top. Anyone can fall and most eventually do.
But, as Collins' research emphasizes, some companies do indeed recover. Decline, it turns out, is largely self-inflicted, and the path to recovery lies largely within our own hands. We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our history, or even our staggering defeats along the way. As long as we never get entirely knocked out of the game, hope always remains. The mighty can fall, but they can often rise again.
©2009 Jim Collins; (P)2009 Jim Collins
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If you are a Jim Collins fan, which I am, you will have to read or listen to this book. It is pretty good, though not as good as his two previous books. Worth getting.
I love Jim Collins' work--Good to Great, Built to Last, and now How the Mighty Fall. The text is well written, the narration excellent, but the substantial appendices which contain detailed case study information (based on statements made during the reading) are missing--only one is covered.
Because of this, I doubt you will want to substitute the audio book for the paper version.
I'm a BIG Collins fan, and upon reading other reviewers criticisms about this not being as well-rounded of a book, thought they were just being picky, but... it's true. He fails to back up several of his deductions with the same rigor as Good to Great, and the general quality of these deductions isn't as significant in the first place. I'd say he had more than enough content for a chapter in a book, but not nearly enough for a whole book. This could have been a section of his next book. But, it's short...
How the Mighty Fall is a mature and disciplined perspective on the underpinnings of business success and failure. Collins provides grounded, grown up advice: avoid hubris, don't get greedy, be honest in your self appraisals, and it's almost never too late.
Unfortunately, someone told Mr. Collins that he needed to kick the voice acting schtick up one too many notches. His reading is just short of a dramatization. This would be fine if his work was theater. But How the Mighty Fall isn't Shakespeare, it's good old American know how.
A good listen if you can get past the delivery.
I'm a mid level manager at a Fortune 100 company, and I enjoyed this listen. I'm not sure how practical it was as the target audience for actually doing any of these things is C-suite level, but I've always wondered why companies like Circuit City, Motorola, etc that were profiled in "Good to Great" failed. This does a nice job breaking down the stages of companies headed for the brink.
As member of a professional staff, I wonder at how our corporate leadership cannibalizes their most successful and productive business in order to finance a manic rate of growth. We, successful and highly profitable for decades before our purchase and designation as "the flagship" of this corporation, paid the bills for numerous ill-considered ventures. Sadly, when our healthy cash-flow was insufficient to cover so many poor risks, carnage ensued.
Executives outside of our operation dictated layoffs and eliminated key positions. Some responsibilities went unanswered, and others transferred to already over-utilized staff members. When a survey revealed long-term customers' perception (awareness) of the decline in value and service, corporate leaders reacted, cutting more positions and adding more to the load of struggling employees! As organizational memory of extraordinary performance fades, new leadership's acceptance of mediocre as "good enough" is the new norm. In a speech to a hard-working, cash-producing staff from whom leadership has taken many benefits and withheld annual raises or bonuses during years of of healthy earnings, a corporate executive had the audacity to tell a little story about a problem with his wife's new Cadillac! Clearly there's no concern about how the money is earned as long as it keeps coming in. Almost all of our strong leaders have quit or been fired for refusing to dilute quality to enhance bottom line. Executives are insulated from truth now, "they don't want to hear it anyway."
The original "charge a premium price and then exceed expectations" remains sound, but "discount our price, reduce customary value, and stack the bill with ancillary service charges" prevails. The "exceed expectations" culture is taking root elsewhere, nurtured by our exiled leaders. We know how it's done, why go down with these vultures?
To be sure, these are stories of failures. But more so, these are lessons on how to be successful. What are the signs of danger? What action do you take to recovery? How to navigate in through the tough and successful times. I look forward to the next book as I just ordered the hardback version of this to have for reference and review.
I consider "Good to Great" to be the gold standard of books on business and management. It is rigorous in its analysis, profound in its conclusions, and extremely useful as a "how to" guide. It is one of the few books that I periodically re-read for its wisdom. "Built to Last" was comparable, but not as relevant as a how-to guide. I was not expecting "How the Mighty Fall" to completely live up to the standards of its predecessors, but I was expecting more than it delivered. It seemed to me to be a re-hashing of the ideas of the earlier books, with no revolutionary new material. I suspect that it served to fill an obligation for a multi-book contract, while not requiring years of research as his books normally do.
I am looking forward to his next book, which sounds like a more extensive and original undertaking.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
This book is worth listening to whether you're a senior employee, a middle manager, a member of the general staff or just someone concerned for the status of the economy.
It provides case studies of different companies that failed due to overconfidence, ignorance of new facts and pretty much careless, not thoroughly researched decisions. It also often provides case studies for their counterparts who avoided the pitfalls they fell into.
Overall, a must hear.
Collins is a smart guy, no doubt about it. What makes this book stand out is Collins' high energy narration, as if he is on stage in front of you. As to how the mighty fall, there's nothing new, beyond the common pitfalls we regularly see. If you have never read a management book, this one is as good as any other. If you have some experience in corporate America, there's little for you here.
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