Good to Great

Good to Great

Why Some Companies Make the Leap-- and Others Don't

Book - 2001
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The Challenge

Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, 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 the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study

For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards

Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons

The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings

The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness. The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

"Some of the key concepts discerned in the study," comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people."

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?

Publisher: New York : HarperBusiness, c2001.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780066620992
Characteristics: xii, 300 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Additional Contributors: Collins, James C. (James Charles), 1958-


From the critics

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May 03, 2021

I read this when it originally came out in the early 2000's. I just finished re-reading it again (I wonder who snagged my copy from 2001???) I was amazed at:
1) how much of it I remembered;
2) how timely the concepts still are 20 years later;
3) how so many of the ideas he put forward in this book have since become 'main stream'.
A business classic that probably should be read every couple of years. It's actually a pretty quick read for a business book. The ideas are very accessible.

Aug 04, 2020

Good To Great is an entrepreneurs manual for shifting a company to be remembered for decades. Good To Great focuses on a set of legendary companies that were able to shift from being just ‘good’ to ‘great.’ This book shows exactly how those companies were able to do it so entrepreneurs can replicate it for themselves. This book dives into the science of transforming a company with lessons like the importance of market focus and outstanding management. One aspect that I enjoy about Good To Great is the chapter summaries which assist you in summarizing the chapter you have just read. The lessons this book gives is completely transforming entrepreneurs which is why I rate it a 4.5/5. @UniquePerspective of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Aug 28, 2017

The anecdotes, illustrating the behaviours and business models that made specific good companies great over time while comparable companies in the same markets did not, were the most interesting and I've recounted them to others many times since I first read this about 15 years ago. The rest of the book stays at a readable, relatively-high level but tends to repeat itself excessively and the author likes to coin less-than-obvious terms. I'd recommend the book Flash Boys as well as the films The Big Short and The Founder in the same genre.

Jun 01, 2017

Engaging research on why some companies sustain greatness over time (15+ years) and why some cannot sustain it or never reach it. It is worth reading the book just for the "Stockdale Paradox". Good stuff...

Jan 18, 2017

This is one of the few books that if read by every business owner, then the world would become a better place. Collins and his team break every preconceived notion about corporate America and he relates them all to everyday people and their regular lives. Incredible book

JCLNickWB Oct 20, 2015

I am not usually a fan of business books in general, but this was a surprisingly good read that disproves several large assumptions about management, and it is backed up with data. The book is sprinkled with examples of companies and that were very successful from 1985-2000 (ish) as well as CEO interviews. I would recommend to anyone starting a company or managing in any capacity.

Dale A Youngman
Apr 22, 2015

Read this many years ago from EPL. The old review I left seems no longer available. Many insights to help you focus. Collins has a number of articles on his web site but this is still quoted often and relevant.

Dec 06, 2013

A business classic. GOOD TO GREAT was one of the very first books to present complex business concepts in a narrative fashion; it also presented key concepts around the power of soft skills or leadership traits that make a key difference in success. A must read for anyone in a leadership role.


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