Much has been written and reviewed bout Jim Collins’ book on leadership. It has been a mainstay of organizations who wish to see change and empower leaders to have the courage to ask the tough questions and make moves toward health. I couldn’t do justice to the thought and conversation that’s already happened around this book. What I can do is share how the book has impacted myself and my leadership. Here are the top four items I took away from Good to Great [Amazon Link]:
Confront the Brutal Facts
This concept to me is like grace in the Bible. Let’s just get our “stuff” out there in the light. Let’s get honest. Let’s evaluate realistically. One of my mentors calls this a “spreadsheet meeting”. Take out emotion. Confront the brutal facts. What are yours? Collins writes, “The good-to-great companies did not focus principally on what to do to become great; the focused equally on what not to do and what to stop doing.” I was empowered and invited to do this in my department/organziation and it was one of the most freeing things we’ve ever done. It allowed us to streamline the things we do while we restaffed and re-resourced accordingly. It fundamentally changed the DNA and focus of our team.
“When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy. When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy. When you have disciplined action, yoiu don’t need excessive controls. When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great performance.” This is a gem of wisdom. The right people matter. Collins writes about getting the right people off the bus, the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seats. If you can get to the place where you’re free to get the wrong people out, the right people on, and the right people in the right slots, you’ll have what Collins describes as “the magical alchemy of great performance”. I’m beginning to experience this as our team begins to grow and mature – including myself.
Do Few Things Well
Jason Fried writes about this concept in his book Rework. Great companies do few things well. It’s true. Apple embodies this. But what about Wal Mart? They’re doing pretty well too. Leading a communications department for a Worldwide denomination means we’re not going to be able to do only one or two things. However, we can use this principle to stay focused. Google is a great example of a company who did one thing well getting too big and too diverse. What Collins found in good to great companies was that they stayed within themselves and didn’t get too diversified. He writes, “If you look back at good to great companies, they displayed remarkable courage to channel their resources into only one or a few arenas”. One of my tasks as a leader is to make sure we adhere to this as we grow and succeed.
Freedom within the Framework
“The good-to-great companies built a system with clear constraints, but they also gave people freedom and responsibility within the framework of that system. They hired self-disciplined people who didn’t need to be managed, and then managed the system, not the people.” Our team works in six cities in two time zones, so we needed to create a framework to operate in. We designed our workflows together and use Basecamp to manage the framework, our priorities and our successes. It’s a work in progress, but allows conversation and freedom for innovation. It also frees me up from managing people to focus more on mission.
What’s Your List?
There’s much more I learned in this book. It heavily influenced my thesis for my M.A. and continues to leak into day-to-day. Have you read Good to Great? What was your one big idea? Major thought? A-ha moment? Share yours below.