Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t

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Jim Collins book Built to Last showed how great companies triumph over time and have long-term sustained performance built into the DNA of their company. But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good, mediocre or even bad companies achieve greatness that lasts? Can companies defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity into long-term superiority? If so, are there unique characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great? 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. 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. 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 of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice.

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Five years ago, Jim Collins asked the question, “Can a good company transform a great company and if that is so, how??” In Good to Great, Collins concludes that it is possible but finds there are no silver bullets. Collins and his team sorted through a list of 1,435 companies, searching for those that made substantial improvements in their performance over a length of time. They finally settled on just 11, including companies such as Fannie Mae, Gillette, Walgreens, and Wells Fargo. They discovered common traits that challenged accepted notions of corporate success. Making the transition from good to great doesn’t require a high-profile CEO, the latest technology, innovative change management or even a fine-tuned business strategy. At the heart of those great companies was a corporate culture that found and rigorously promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner. Good to Great offers a road map to excellence that any organization would do well to pursue.

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