"Good to Great" by Jim Collins, HarperCollins, 320 Pages, $27.50, Hardcover, October 2001, ISBN 9780066620992
Note: This Jack Covert Selects is from October of 2001. Not only has the book Good to Great emerged as a classic and a "breakthrough," cross-genre sensation, but the phrase itself has entered business jargon.
Seven years ago, Jerry Porras and Jim Collins published the bestselling classic Built to Last, which demolished a couple of deeply entrenched myths like this one: great companies start with a great product and/or a great leader. After completing that book, Jim Collins was nagged by the lingering question that he had been pondering since before Built to Last: are there any mediocre companies that became great? Once he had established his delimiters, he set out to collect data. Jim and his research team spent over five years and studied every company that made the Fortune 500 from 1965 until now--over 1400 companies--and found only eleven companies had truly gone from mediocre to being a long-term star. Then, they looked at why. Here's where it gets really interesting.
From studying these organizations, Collins and crew came up with some really mind-stretching conclusions. One of the most interesting: every good-to-great company has a "Level 5" leader during the transitional years. However, a Level 5 leader is unlike strong leaders of our imaginings. All Level 5 leaders have a mix of personal humility and professional will. Fanatically driven to produce results, they are ambitious, first and foremost, for the company--not for themselves. Ultimately, they do whatever it takes to make the company great. A few of the other most useful findings include something called The Hedgehog Concept, which advocates breaking out of mediocrity with a single terrific product or service; and Technology Accelerators, which encourages a fundamentally diverse attitude and approach to technology.
Simply put: this book is going to be talked about for years. It is so solid in its findings, but written so superbly, that you will practically learn just by holding it in your hand. But don't stop there: I guarantee that your copy will be as marked up with notes as mine.