Book Review : How do the good become great?

There are some companies which seem to survive whilst others survive. Some businesses which go from strength to strength even when their sectors are stagnant or are in decline. This raises a simple question?

What do companies who thrive do differently to companies who survive?

The book I’ve been reading this week goes a decent way to answering this question…

Good to Great (20)

by Jim Collins

The first thing to mention about a fair few business books is that they tend to be either mainly theoretical or mostly allegorical.

“Good to great” is different.

It’s not based on unproven theory or just stories, as powerful as stories are…

You see it’s clear that the author of this book and his team did loads of research, drilled down into the data and had a few impassioned debates to come up with the principals he writes about.

What comes from this are a number of things which clearly differentiate the ‘great’ from the good.

These include having leaders who are humble but driven, organisations who are prepared to confront the brutal truth but never give up and teams which contain the right people.

Throughout the book Jim Collins shows how the principals apply in a wide range of businesses and uses a number of ‘great’ companies with direct comparisons with companies which just remain good.

I enjoyed this book and it made me think about how the businesses I’m part of continue to improve.

If I had any criticism it would be that ‘share price’ was the ultimate factor which was the differentiation from good to great. Whilst it in a book about business I can see why this defining factor was chosen but how many great organisations have indicators over and above purely it’s shareholder returning.

Interestingly the book has also received criticism from Freakanomics author Steven Levitt who has highlighted the fact that the book looks backward and since the book was written many of the great companies have under performed in the definition which was originally chosen.

Whilst I understand this it forgets one thing…

There’s still lessons to be learned from a once ‘great’ company even if that company declines in later years.

In summary, if you’re responsible for running a business large or small, responsible for managing a business or run any sort of organisation and you want to make it as effective and successful as you can ‘Good to Great’ is a book you should read today…


Next time I’ll be reviewing a book about a fictional London riot which explores the nature of urban policing, politics, class division and much more besides.

┬áIn the meantime…happy reading!


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