Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't

by Jim Collins


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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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780066620992
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/16/2001
Series: Good to Great , #1
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,497
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick, and a Socratic advisor to leaders in the business and social sectors. Having invested more than a quarter-century in rigorous research, he has authored or coauthored six books that have sold in total more than 10 million copies worldwide. They include Good to GreatBuilt to LastHow the Mighty Fall, and Great by Choice.

Driven by a relentless curiosity, Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. In 1995, he founded a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

In addition to his work in the business sector, Jim has a passion for learning and teaching in the social sectors, including education, healthcare, government, faith-based organizations, social ventures, and cause-driven nonprofits.

In 2012 and 2013, he had the honor to serve a two-year appointment as the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 2017, Forbes selected Jim as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.

Jim has been an avid rock climber for more than forty years and has completed single-day ascents of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.

Learn more about Jim and his concepts at his website, where you’ll find articles, videos, and useful tools.


Boulder, Colorado

Date of Birth:

January 25, 1958

Place of Birth:

Aurora, Colorado


B.S. in mathematical sciences, Stanford University, 1980; M.B.A., Stanford University, 1983

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Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 210 reviews.
Shyamashree-Rudra More than 1 year ago
Good to Great is Jim Collins's follow-up to Built to Last, the 1994 management classic, which he co-wrote with Jerry Porras. Infact, Collins calls Good To Great a "prequel" to his hugely successful Built To Last. I call it one of the most important Business Leadership books I have read. While Built To Last was a great book, however, it left out critical information, because those companies were already great. What about those of us struggling to move our companies from Good To Great as opposed to those trying to hold on to greatness? The missing piece is clearly identified in Collins' Good To Great. Collins spent five years of research assisted by 20 business school students, who analyzed 1,435 public companies for this book. Their findings - just 11 companies from were able to sustainable their good to great efforts. Having identified the companies that made the leap from Good To Great, Collins and his team set out to examine the transition point. What characteristics did the Good To Great companies have that their industry counterparts did not? What didn't the Good To Great companies have? Collins maps out three stages, each with two key concepts. These six concepts are the heart of Good To Great and he devotes a chapter to explaining each of them. .Level 5 Leadership .First Who... Then What .Confront the Brutal Facts .The Hedgehog Concept .A Culture of Discipline .Technology Accelerators Many experts have problems with the way Collins and his team performed their "research." Some argue that Collins's measure for greatness is flawed or that his work fails to be classified as true research because it does not follow any scientific method. Or that the key measure used by Collins ("Ratio of Cumulative Stock Returns to General Market") looks at the company only through the eyes of one stakeholder - the owners. These arguments may be a bit unfair because some of the variables in business do not lend themselves well to true research; greatness is a subjective quality; and the amount of immeasurable historical variables for this particular project is so immense. If research of this nature was an easy task, we should have written tried and tested formulas for perfect businesses, leaders, schools, cities, et al during our 3,000 plus years of civilization. Unlike many business books that are based on hype and after-market consulting services, Good to Great is mainly based on good old fashion business principles. Sure, Collins renames some of them with gimmicky names like Hedgehog Concept and The Flywheel. But for the most part, Collins's book has some sound principles in it that the reader shouldn't necessarily take as a game plan, but rather a starting point for conversation, reflection and inspiration both for themselves and their team. How does his research reflect in the current economic slowdown? If I were to apply Collins' theory in today's recessionary environment, I would show one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as possible. I'd put off everything else to fill my bus. Because things are going to come back. The flywheel is going to start to turn. And the single biggest constraint on the success of any organization will be the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people. To sum up, Good to Great can be a very useful tool when its principles are adapted to the user's unique situation and variables.
MAXIMUS15 More than 1 year ago
After reading this book I was not very impressed. Jim Collins started with a template and tried to find companies that would fit into his template. His leadership idea is nothing new and he could have taken all the leaders in the world and found stories that fit into his mold. His revelations are obnoxious and he spends about half the book talking about the good to great concept instead of using deep analysis to uncover some hidden truths. One of the greatest flaws of this book is how he took a good look at certain companies through interviews but he failed to study any of the accounting changes that effected some of the businesses he discusses. One of the most notable is Walgreen's and circuit city who were able to structure their leases in such a way that they did not have to disclose them on the balance sheet as assets or liabilities. Walgreens and Circuit City grew because their bankers didn't get the full picture of how much debt the company was able to take on under the table and not disclose. Now that these companies are forced to disclose that information they appear less solvent and their stock price has adjusted to reality. Additionally Circuit City tanked when the new accounting practices and bad economy showed how insolvent they really were. Other things Jim Collins failed to mention involved the establishment of right to work states that ended union control on companies and allowed NUCOR to establish one of the most efficient manufactures in the world. Most of the companies Jim talks about have fallen apart in heaps and are bad to average. He should have written a book about how little research he had to do to write a book that would get praise from the entire academic sector but be a complete bad to worse book at best. Don't buy the book! Save your money and take some accounting classes and you can then uncover what takes a company from good to great!
KROG More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was well written and a pleasure to read. While reading I could not help but wonder where are these companies now? Many are no longer in business and several have been able to continue with their success. Circuit City, Fannie Mae, and Gillette are three that are no longer “great”. Two that seem to still be thriving are Walgreens and Wells Fargo. Although three out of the eleven companies studied are no longer in business I do not think this discredits Collins’ work. His overall message that, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice” can still be applied to anyone who wants to enhance their company. The book is instructive and accessible and I think this is a great book to add to the curriculum for all business students. By using metaphors Collins makes his ideas easy to understand and follow which will become critical as future business executives try to emulate. He gives concrete examples of company’s successes and failures and then applies tangible models that are easy to imitate. I also believe that this book goes beyond just a business book. This book can be used for several different professions and for the overall betterment of one’s life. We all look to become an effective leader, find something that we are truly good at, and surround ourselves with people who help achieve our goals. Sometime in life it better to think like Collins and not always try to come up with the answers, but better to ask the right questions.
Locky More than 1 year ago
I read Good to Great about four years ago and I am constantly going back to it to keep me on the course. I was amazed not only by the revelations, but also by how much of the ideas seem to be common sense, but really aren't in the business world. It became by goals to find a company matched the ideals laid out in this book (and happily, I think I have). The book is very easy to read and the research is laid out and explained in a very thoughtful way. There are lessons here well beyond business. A high school teacher friend of mine read this and said he found it very insightful to his world as well. A must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was required reading for the company's annual store managers meeting in Las Vegas. Time was assigned in the agenda for discussion groups and roundtables to explore it's merits. So we all (most of us) dutifully read this tedious work only to find that any sessions related to the book were cancelled due to "Questions concerning the book's relevance" and designated free time or the Corporate version of "Basket Weaving". The flawed process allowed companies with creative accounting practices to appear greater than reality. I am a avid reader both personally and professionally. Reading this took hours of my life I'll never get back...
Moore03 More than 1 year ago
This book has several pointers for the organizational leader. These are tried and true methods used by organizations who's success spaned decades.
John_Clinton More than 1 year ago
As Circuit City went under and some of the other Good to Great companies struggled critics pointed out that Jim Collin's companies are not quite that great and hence his suggestions not useful. I think they are wrong. It does not matter how well these companies do in the long run. The book uses a specified observation period (15 good, followed by 15 great years) and develops propositions based on this period. A more valid criticism of the book is related to the method. Case study research - as the method is called in management sciences - allows you to develop ideas and theories not test them. Jim Collins could be more explicit about this. Once we establish what the book and can't do, it actually provides great thoughts on how you can turn your company from good to great. But what next? How do you stay there. Jim Collins'suggest you take a look at 'Built to Last', a book that describes how firms succeeded over many decades. It's a great read but a little dated (17 years since it was first published). I recommend that you take a look at the newly published 'Enduring Success. What we can learn from the history of outstanding corporations'. Same question but incorporation of fresh management thoughts plus connection to current debates.
AryanE More than 1 year ago
This book is mostly about outcomes of Jim Collins studies into the factors that determine whether a company would survive in the long-term. He believes companies should have a set of values so that they are able to achieve the success that they were looking for  and to sustain it in the long run. According to Collins, this purpose does not have to be explicit as long as the team members are equally  devoted to the same set of goals. He started his research on hand-full of companies and he used some criteria’s such as: period of growth and sustained success which personally I believe that are two of the most important facts in determining the sustainability of a business. Collins states a number of  management, personnel, operational practices, behaviors, and attitudes that are both beneficial and against the good-to-great transition. After reading the book I did not really feel that Collins is biased towards any one idea but he mostly put his concerns towards big companies and not the small businesses which make this book not that inclusive.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sean_From_OHIO More than 1 year ago
While bursting with numbers that get monotonous at times, Jim Collins writes (and reads) a very interesting look at how companies achieve (or don't) success. The hours that went into this are obvious and appreciated. Some of he and his team's findings seemed contradictory at times but the overall work is pretty amazing. His passion definitely comes through in his work.
dvf1976 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Remarkably similar to the Covey books (7 Habits + 8th Habit).No shortcuts to success, continuous improvement, passion for your role are all good lessons from these books.
gtdbizmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found Jim's book to be a shot of reality of what it takes to succeed as a company in a world caught up in the quick fix. As an entrepreneur, I have seen first hand that the principles Jim outlines as being as being critical to an organization's success. It was great to read a book that focused on building strong fundamentals and sticking to the basics rather than always looking for solutions through tactics. Read this book, you¿ll be a better business book for it.
Dangraham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was decent, although many of the conclusions seemed to be drawn from very little data. To be fair, I didn't look into the data behind the book so maybe it was water tight...
bsanner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good is the enemy to great. Great organizations are not characterized by charismatic leaders, product trends, or media hype. Rather, great organizations are doggedly disciplined around what Collins terms a "hedgehog concept" - the singular intersection of what an organization is passionate about, what an organization can be best in the world at, and the economic engine of an organization. Once an organization understands its "hedgehog concept," greatness means discipline: disciplined leadership making disciplined decisions in the context of its "hedgehog concept" - resulting in a disciplined culture. This sort of determination isn't the result of training, but of recruiting. The "who" of an organization must take priority over its "what" - or as Collins says "who first, then what." Good to Great is an engaging and thoroughly interesting read. Although the research is in the context of the business world, it is readily applicable both individually and in other organizational contexts. A+
dbeveridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Essential reading for any business. This was a re-read and I think I need to do this every couple of years. There are some fundamental truths here that anyone in business needs to remind oneself about again and again.This makes my faves list because it is definitional, fundamental.
mantooth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
book on leadership and management in organizations. As usual the book is about common sense but it communicates the points very well. One of the best to the point books of this type that I have read. I would include it with "Flight of the Buffalo" and "The 7 Habits" as the most useful books when attempting to learn about leadership and management.
c21wolf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A primer in the management of people. Use their strengths, put them in the right place and you will be rewarded.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anyone who manages anything could learn a great deal from the in-depth research and extremely accessible writing of Collins and his team. Collins proves that it is not about money, but about the person in charge, the people who support them, and the cohesiveness of ideas. An excellent read.
dclt01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There were some companies I did not expect to see listed.
kpickett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is all about how to take a company from good, or mediocre to great! Not quite tailored to non-profits but discusses some good theories: level 5 leaders, hedgehog concepts and more. Not as dry as other management books, Collins uses lots of examples which helps a non commercially minded person get a grasp on his concepts.
jpsnow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good is the enemy of great. Collins and his team (in Boulder, CO) researched what factors appear to drive companies from solid, stable operations, into consistent, lasting growth. They used empirical data, ultimately identifying about 13 out of the fortune 500. The 6 factors held up across all of these firms, and didn't appear in a control set that started with a similar track record. The 6 factors: Level 5 Leadership (humble, driven), First Who... then what, Confront the Brutal Facts (but never lose faith), The Hedgehog Concept (simplicity within the three circles), A Culture of Discipline, and Technology Accelerators.
roryridleyduff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This strong text is the contemporary equivalent of 'In Search of Excellence' that every self-respecting manager had on their bookshelf during the 1980s. Time will tell if the conclusions of this book are any more reliable than Peters & Waterman's contribution.The pretext of this book is 'how do you take a good company and make it great?' Finding case studies to answer this question is no easy task and the research team set about it by finding companies that performed at the industry average for 15 years, then outperformed the market for the next 15 years by a factor of 3:1. The team then interview and investigate the companies themselves and come up with some interesting and thought provoking findings. Out of these investigations come some concepts that will have enduring impact on management discourse - the most notable of which is the concept of a Level 5 leader (a person combining personal humility with professional will).So why not a 5 star rating? The one weakness is the relatively lightweight approach to case study. From an academic perspective, this book repeats the same mistake made by so many other studies - it interviews only senior managers and makes too much use of media reports (written by journalists who talk to senior managers). Whilst I appreciate the access issues, good quality case study work involves a wider range of people and the theoretical conclusions of this book may - like its 'excellent' predecessor - unravel due to a failure to investigate any views other than those of managers.
swampqueen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lots of good theories - wondeing what the story is with some of his profiled companies - Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
markdeo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well researched. I enjoyed this book very much. I feel it is a must read. Mr. Collin's ideas on "Optimal Thinking" are very interesting. This book spurned so much creativity from within me. I was really able to upgrade in capitalizing on my strengths. Very motivating and entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for a business class that I am currently in at the University of Georgia. First, I want to say that I really enjoyed the read. I thought Jim Collins really uses all of the analytics that he and his team gathered to make his arguments incredibly strong. However, I thought that Collins's arguments are now not as strong because of some of these "great" businesses have gone out of business. Even with this fact, his ideas for why a company could go from "good" to "great" in my opinion are all very valid ideas. In short, this book does a good job of providing a cohesive understanding of what they researched compacted into a form that is easily understandable without compromising the information. It is well written, well organized, and well researched.