I finally read “Good To Great”

For the longest time, I’ve put off reading “Good to Great” by Jim Collins but finally decided to pick it up.

Have you ever realized that your perception was completely wrong about something and felt like a fool?  Well..that’s what happened to me while reading this book.

I’ve always been wary of the book and the message it portrayed…at least the one I thought it portrayed.  Over the years, I’ve read many reviews (good & bad) of the book and heard many people talk about the book in a negative light. I allowed these negative sentiments about the book to keep from reading it.  I wish I’d picked the book up sooner…not because it delivers a resounding message but because it is much different than many of the critics have tried to make it.

Many critics claim the book trys to say ‘do these things and you’ll be successful’…I disagree.  That’s not what I got from the book at all. What I got out of this book was a affirmation of what I’ve been arguing for all along:

People are the most important asset an organization will ever have.

Many critics slam the book (and others like it) because many of the companies listed as ‘great’ aren’t that great these days.  The critics claim that this is ammunition against the book’s message…I disagree…sort of. I agree that many of the organizations outlined in this book are now ‘not so great’, but that isn’t proof that the message of this book is wrong.  Perhaps these organizations lost their way.  Perhaps they stopped focusing on the people and started focusing on the competition or maybe they started worrying about how investors would see them.

I like this book and its message.  I do think the idea of ‘do these things and you’ll be great’ is ridiculous but that shouldn’t stop an organization from looking at how other companies have been successful.

This book, and the many others like it, tend to oversimplify what companies and/or people have done to be successful.  There isn’t one solution that will fit every organization.  There isn’t a ‘recipe’ for success.  You can’t emulate your competitor, you’ve got to be true to yourself and your mission.

That said, the book was a good read and had some very interesting insights.  I may not agree with the entire premise of the book but i think there are some very interesting topics covered.

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Small Giants

I ran across a great book at Half-Price Books last week.  The book, Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham, looked like an interested read and I thought I’d take it with me on my upcoming vacation.  My impatience got the best of me and I bumped the book up to the top of my reading list.

I’m glad I did…this is a great book.

The book is in the same genre as Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Jim Champy’s Outsmart! and other similar books although it is closer to Outsmart! than Good to Great.   Unlike the other books in this genre, Small Giants doesn’t try to provide a step by strep instructional manual for running your business and/or making your organization ‘Great’.

The author chose fourteen privately held companies that he claims has “mojo” and have remained true to the founders ideals rather then ‘get big’.  From the jacket of the book:

It’s a widely accepted axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, some entrepreneurs have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do . . . creating a great place to work . . . providing great customer service . . . making great contributions to their communities . . . and finding great ways to lead their lives.

What I found most interesting about the companies in this book is that they each have their own belief system and organizational structures.  Some organizations believe in a very rigorous reporting structure while others believe in Results Oriented environments.  Some believe that you must be in the office every day and others are OK with virtual work.  One organization even keeps track of tardiness and will fire a person who is late more than 5 times….seems pretty old fashioned to me.  But it works for that organization.

The true genius of this book is its ability to shed light on a few simple facts about running a business:

  • Build a corporate culture that fits your organization. If that means allowing people to work remotely and with full autonomy…so be it.  If it means having a “butt in seat by 8AM” policy…more power to you.
  • Hire the best people you can and keep them happy. Salary isn’t the only thing that makes people happy.  Go take a look at Anchor Brewing…they pay a decent salary but they also give everyone a chance to advance their education, travel around the world and provide input to how the organization is run.
  • Focus on your people first and your customers second.  If your employees are happy, excited to be a part of your organization and they understand how their job affects the organization, then your customers will be able to tell…and they’ll be taken care of as well.

This is a really good book…nothing earth shattering but definitely worth the read.

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