Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book review: Good to Great by Jim Collins

Good to Great: Why some companies make the jump… and others don’t – Jim Collins

Jim Collins and his research team set out to answer the questions, “can a good company become a great company?” and “if they can, how?”. By studying countless articles, interview transcripts and data, the research team came up with a definition of a ‘great’ company. The team would study two companies that started off in similar situations with similar future prospects but in one point in time (what they call the transition point) one company skyrocketed while the other withered. The great company (the one that skyrocketed) is compared to the comparison company (the one that underperformed). The results are the basis of this book. The chapters explain concepts and principles that were consistent among all the great companies but lacking in the comparison companies.
Companies such as Wells Fargo, Gillette and Circuit City (among many others) are analysed throughout the chapters. The book concludes with a very insightful FAQ section and wealth of information in the appendices.

What I gained from reading this book:
I read this book expecting it to be very similar to The E-Myth. It turned out to be very different. I am still undecided if I like this book or not. While I could clearly see that much effort has gone into the research, I’m not too convinced on the value of the results. Some concepts seemed so obvious that it seemed a waste of time to read about them.
The main problem I had with this book is the way the concepts were explained. Phrases such as ‘Getting the right people on the bus’, ‘the hedgehog concept’, ‘the three circles’, ‘grasp the flywheel, not the doom loop’, ‘level 5 managers’ pretty much sum up the type of lingo used throughout the entire book. I was expecting straight forward explanations and was disappointed to find that most explanations followed the lines of ‘make sure you get the right people on the bus in the right seats and the wrong people off the bus’. While using metaphors continuously may work for some people, it sure didn’t work for me.
Most people could probably guess the principles and values the great companies have before even picking up the book. So I was not impressed when I came across the part where the author explains why the company that gave the executives lavish perks in expensive buildings underperformed the disciplined company that cut executive’s pay 75% when times became tough and ran the business in a dental sized suite.
Although I do feel that most of the findings could have been explained better on a single A4 sheet of paper, I did enjoy reading this book (only some parts). For example: hearing about Walgreens and how they crammed so many stores in a small area and why was very interesting.

Provides insight into many great companies and their culture. Very thorough explanations on the principles and concepts. Plenty of information in the appendices.

Most concepts and principles are obvious before even reading the book. A lot of buzz words and metaphors are used that may distract rather than assist. The viability of the study and the results is questionable.

Recommended for: Small business owners
I recommend this book for small business owners to get a better understanding of the types of principles and values they should apply to their business. Although many of the principles are obvious and common sense, it always helps to read up about them to help you apply them.

Genre: Business

Overall rating: 6 out of 10 stars
Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:
Good to Great

Where to from here:
I recommend reading The E-Myth: Revisited instead of this book. Read my review to understand why.

If you have read this book, feel free to give it your own rating by posting a comment below.

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