James C. Collins – Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t
Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great
James C. Collins has distinguished himself as an author, professor, and researcher. He founded a research management laboratory where he conducts research with CEOs and senior leadership teams in the corporate and social sectors. He has produced learning environments for those in education, healthcare, government, faith-based organizations, and cause-oriented nonprofits.
According to Collins, the listed books are ultimately about one thing: timeless principles of “Good to Great.” He indicates, the work is a discovery of timeless, universal principles that can be applied to any situation and enhance one’s life experiences in building something great in the corporate world, the church, nonprofits, or community organizations. The work is about building a framework of “greatness” that can stand the test of time no matter how the global scene changes.
A synopsis of the two books can be understood through the lens of the four stages outlined in the good to great conceptual framework.
Stage I – Disciplined People
A. Level Five Leadership
“Level Five leaders build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of extreme personal humility with intense professional will.” They are ambitious for the work, not themselves
B. First Who…Then What?
Level Five leaders make sure the right people are on the bus and seated in strategic places, and the wrong people are off the bus, before they determine where to drive it.
Stage II – Disciplined Thought
A. Confront the Brutal Facts—Stockdale Paradox
“Retain unwavering faith you can and will prevail in the end, and at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”
B. Hedgehog Concept
A self-assessment concept reflected in three intersecting circles: “what you can be the best at in the world; what you are deeply passionate about; and what best drives your economic or resource engine.”
Stage III – Disciplined Action
A. Culture of Discipline
Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and function in the freedom of disciplined action within a framework of responsibility, characterize a culture that creates greatness.
B. The Flywheel
The process of building greatness is like consistently pushing a giant, heavy flywheel until enough momentum is gained which ultimately leads to breakthrough and beyond.
Stage IV – Build Greatness to Last
A. Clock Building not Time Telling
Great organizations prosper through multiple generations of leaders who leave legacies of success models for their successors to build on.
B. Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress
Enduring great organizations acknowledge “core values which never change and operating strategies and cultural practices which endlessly adapt to a changing world.”
“A great organization is one that delivers superior performance and makes a distinctive impact over a long period of time. For a social sector organization, performance is assessed in terms of how effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact relative to our resources.”
The depiction of Level Five leaders reminded me right away of Jesus’ leadership style and mannerisms in His earthly walk. He exuded humility and was unassuming and reserved while occupying the most powerful position of authority, and manifesting extraordinary feats. Jesus always gave all glory to God, His source. His attention was focused on His mission of advancing the Kingdom of God and not on Himself. He also handpicked His disciples and got the right people on the bus and in the right seats, before discipleship, miracles, and revelations. Jesus even got the wrong person off the bus by giving Judas free reign to literally hang himself and get himself removed from the bus. Collins states the right person on the bus has more to do with character than knowledge or skill.
In March, 2003, Collins was interviewed by Christianity Today. Collins stated, “I am delighted that so many people in the Christian community resonate with the Level 5 concept. They probably feel tension between the brutal competiveness of the outside world and their inner faith and being a type of person that the New Testament calls you to be. If you thought you had to be an anti-level 5 to be successful, but now you find this evidence that your instincts were right all along, that can be powerful.”
Committing to the Hedgehog Concept in the Social Sectors is quite challenging, especially Circle 2—“Understanding what your organization can uniquely contribute to the people it touches, better than any other organization on the planet.” Addressing the circles relating to this Concept should be quite helpful this semester in our class on “Designing a Research Model.” Hopefully, this reality check will enable us to gain greater clarity and be able to fine tune our research endeavors even more.
I found confronting the brutal facts of my current reality to be rather daunting. Meditating on the concepts of the Stockdale Paradox brought a host of scriptures to mind that reinforced my faith walk. I thought about my fellow cohortees and how tenacious we all have to be in our faith in God as we are completing our studies and dealing with other external challenges.
In Deep Work, Cal Newport encouraged his readers to produce at an elite level and informed that human beings are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging.  Collins challenges his readers to consider, “What work makes you feel compelled to try to create greatness? Get involved in something you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be.”. Collins maintains, “Our work and our life move toward greatness when we’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic value that makes a contribution. Knowing that our short time here on earth has been well spent and that it mattered, gives meaning to life.” This is a Selah moment.
- James Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t (NewYork: HarperCollins, 2011) 279, Kindle.
- James Collins, Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking is Not the Answer: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great (New York: HarperCollins, 2011) 452, Kindle.
- Ibid., 474.
- Ibid., 75.
- “Good to Great’s Leadership Model Looks Familiar to Christians,” Christianity Today (March 2003): accessed September 6, 2016, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/marchweb-only/3-10-51.o.html.
- Collins, Social Sectors, 262, Kindle
- Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016), 29, 84.
- Collins, Good to Great, 3376, Kindle.
- Collins, Social Sectors, 3386, Kindle.