MT Business Classic: Good to Great, by Jim Collins

Stefan Stern says Good to Great is a must-read for people in business.

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 28 Oct 2013

Why some companies make the leap ... and others don't

Jim Collins

William Collins, 2001

Is there a formula for business success? No. But the quest to find a handbook of foolproof or one-size-fits-all measures continues. Perhaps Jim Collins is partly to blame for this - or rather, the success of his book Good to Great is.

Collins established his reputation with 1994's Built to Last (co-authored with Jerry Porras), which had analysed the core values or 'reasons to be' that supported success.

Good to Great was in a sense more ambitious: an attempt to understand what lifted corporations out of the ordinary and into greatness.

Great companies, it seems, had certain things in common. They had 'confronted the brutal facts' about themselves. They had 'level 5 leaders' - unflashy, driven, serious people who were not egomaniacs. And these companies were relentlessly disciplined.

Of course, the book fell victim to the curse of the guru bible - some of the success stories hit hard times. Collins's book was misunderstood. He had not promised these companies would be great forever. He had merely described what they had done in a given period on the way to achieving dominance.

Read properly, it remains a useful and thought-provoking guide.

Stefan Stern is visiting professor at Cass Business School.

Follow him on Twitter: @StefanStern

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