Good to Great…or False?
James C. “Jim” Collins is an American author, consultant, and lecturer on the subject of business management and company sustainability and growth. In his classic and continuing bestseller book, Good to Great, Collins and his researchers sifted through 1,435 Fortune 500 companies to find the few that met their study’s criteria for greatness, out of these companies they found 11.
Out of the many vital takeaways, the primary resource is the breakdown of the leadership hierarchy from Level 1 to Level 5 leadership. They are defined as the following, Level 1 Leadership: Highly Capable Individual, Level 2 Leadership: Contributing Team Member, Level 3 Leadership: Competent Manager, Level 4 Leadership: Effective Leader, and Level 5 Leadership: Executive. Again, Good to Great, is one of the best-known best on business and leadership, or is it?
Rob May is his review of Good to Great points to the fact that it is the secondary market, not the business sector that accounts for a majority of its success. Furthermore, May, along with other reviewers, highlight the fact that Collins and his research team demonstrate a poor research methodology in producing the results of said good to great research. One such example is the lack of disconfirming research. May writes, “Collins’ team looked at the companies that went from good to great and said, “what do all these have in common?” They never went back and said, “are there any companies that have these traits that did not make the leap from good to great?” This is not to say that there are not great principles in the book that can be and have been applied in many diverse organizations, but from a pure research standpoint, it fails the litmus test.
In a follow monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sector, Collins admonishes non-profits not to try and be like a business. He writes,
We must reject the idea—well-intentioned, but dead wrong—that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become “more like a business.” Most businesses—like most of anything else in life—fall somewhere between mediocre and good. Few are great. When you compare great companies with good ones, many widely practiced business norms turn out to correlate with mediocrity, not greatness. So, then, why would we want to import the practices of mediocrity into the social sectors? 
Although Collins makes this bold statement upon closer inspection, the process of good to great in both business and social sectors are the same, just contextualized. Jeff Dunn-Rakin is one who is in favor of principles and their application to youth ministry. He writes, “First, as Collins writes, ‘A great organization is one that delivers superior performance and makes a distinctive impact over a long period of time.’ If we believe Jesus wants us to go and make disciples, we are to figure out how to do that in a superior way, making a distinctive impact of a long period of time.” While this blog does not provide the space for more extended discussion, I would seem last weeks reading, The Theology of Leadership Journal, is impacting my thoughts already. What I mean is, are we (Rakin) being led by superior performance or theology? Have we simply taken a business concept and massaged Christ into the framework to make it fit our paradigm? For me, this is one of the driving questions to my research. Not that we have to reject business concepts or principles, but I do think it is essential where we start, what we add, and how we add it too to the cause of Christ.
p.s. yes I hope you have nightmares of this image of Jesus as a CEO 🙂
 “James C. Collins.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, March 8, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_C._Collins.
 Collins, James C. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Dont. New York, NY: Collins, 2009, 35.
 May, Rob, Branden, Jess Turner, Gwen Wendenheimer, Jennifer Allen, and Jenn Taylor-Reynolds. “‘Good to Great’ Review: Why ‘Good to Great’ Isn’t Very Good.” Business Pundit, Last modified October 31, 2015. http://www.businesspundit.com/why-good-to-great-isnt-very-good/.
 Collins, James C. Good to Great and the Social Sectors. S.l.!: Jim Collins, 2005, 1.
 Dunn-Rankin, Jeff. 2008. “good to great and the social sectors.” Group, May, 24. https://georgefox.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/docview/231999479?accountid=11085.
4 responses to “Good to Great…or False?”
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Mario – first off, great point made by May. Thank you for sharing that.
Second – let the nightmares begin!
Third – thank you for taking the time to write about the things we add or forget about the Christ story. That is such an important theological point.
Thank you Mario for your consistency in reminding us of the boundaries of remaining true to the cause of Christ. I appreciate the timeless principles that Collins highlights and appreciate their place in doing an extraordinary work, but we must prove all things through the standards set by Christ, there is not other foundation that can be laid other that was laid by Christ Jesus and we can only build on it for great results that bring glory to Him.
Thanks for your usual well-cited and presented post. You can tell from my post my own struggles with Collins’ work. However, I think there are threads we can incorporate into our local church strategic leadership. Thanks for the reminder from our Journal of Theology readings that it does matter where we start from, what we add, and how we add to the cause of Christ. I look forward to your research findings!
Mario, thank you for mentioning the youth in your post. I think you are right in saying we are sometimes trying to massage Christ into business models. When I think about the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15, it does not make sense to focus on one lost sheep when you have 99, but in God’s economy it does. We can use these principles as tools, but they must align to our main source, the Word of God.