Book Review – “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

I rarely publish book reviews for this is not my specialty and others do a better job of it than I do.   But today I find myself sitting in Frankfurt Airport having missed my connection to Toulouse by 5 minutes and now waiting for another 10 hours until my next flight.   I’ve been flying and passengering now continuously for 46 hours and traversed 2/3 rds of  the globe, so I’ve got 10 hours to study more books.

Sunset looking west over the India Ocean (January 2014 (Photo R de Crespigny)

Sunset looking west over the India Ocean (January 2014 (Photo R de Crespigny)

Teamwork!  with  Matt Hicks

Teamwork! with Matt Hicks

“Good to Great” is an excellent book for leaders, managers and others who are seeking self improvement.

Jim Lovell  (Photo:  Michael Watson)

Commander Jim Lovell (Photo: Michael Watson)

“Good to Great” is different to other business development books because it presents only the results of forensic statistical analysis of companies who were in the S&P Top 500 , that had a 15 year cumulative stock return at or below the general stock market, punctuated by a transition point, then cumulative returns at least three times the market rate over the next fifteen years.

From his data mined discoveries, Jim found that the best leaders employed Disciplined People, using Disciplined Thought, to produce Disciplined Action. The book expands on these three attributes.

In the case of Disciplined People, Jim created the term “Level 5 Leader” to distinguish the leaders that navigated their companies from being good companies to great companies from the leaders whose companies just remained good.   Interestingly these “Good to Great” leaders had the personal attributes of a silent achiever with a twist:  their personalities  were a blend of extreme personal humility but driven by an intense personal will.   A lot of pilots share these attributes.

Byron Van Gibsone

Byron Van Gibsone

I found many pearls of wisdom in Jim’s research.   He discovered that technology was not a high priority for companies that moved from good to great.  Indeed, only 20% of the great companies credited technology as one of the top five factors in their path from good to great.  Although most software and IT companies did not have a history of the S&P for 30 years to be eligible for assessment,  I think that if Apple had made the assessment grade, that Steve Jobs would have considered that he steered Apple along a focussed and relentless path of artistic and design excellence rather than looking behind at his competitors and chasing technology just for technologies’ sake.

The beautiful A380 Küchemann wing tip. (Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

The beautiful A380 Küchemann wing tip. (Photo R de Crespigny)

Jim’s book is a world best seller.  There are seeds of wisdom for everyone, even the young entrepreneur who has not yet compiled a “DO NOT DO” list.   The book made me consider my attitudes to life in relation to morality, personality, drive, passion, focus, and the dangers of setting the attainment of profit as the highest motivator (i.e. focussing on the WHAT, rather than the WHY).

Many people support Jim’s conclusions including industry  speaker-presenter Tony Hughes who has authored a papers (click here) on the roll of every employee in a company’s customer centric culture.

I wholeheartedly agree with Jim Collins and Tony Hughes interpretations of leadership and the “Good to Great” business practices.

Jim saves the pearl in “Good to Great” for the final paragraph.  I think most of us would agree with the following.

“When all these pieces [from the book] come together, not only does your work move towards greatness, but so does your life.  For in the end it’s impossible to have a great life without having a meaningful life.  And it’s very hard to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.  Perhaps then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution.   Indeed you might also gain that deepest of all satisfactions knowing that your short time here on earth has been well spent and that it mattered”.

Airbus A350 test team,  (Photo: Airbus)

The fabulous Airbus A350 test team (Photo: Airbus)

Good to Great by Jim Collins.   Published by Random House.   ISBN: 97807 12676090

Post Script – January 2015

Tony Hughes also believes in the same values that I hold sacred. See Tony’s articles:

Happy QF32 passengers leaving Singapore Airport (Source unknown)

Happy QF32 passengers leaving Singapore Airport (Source unknown)

See also

Aviation Pathways for Aspiring Pilots

QF32 and the Golden Circle

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