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ISBN 9780066620992 Published Oct. 2001
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Posted Oct. 14, 2011 3:52 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, which has gone on to sell well over 4 million copies, and we liked it enough to pick it as one of our 100 best business books of all time, has written, with Morten Hansen, another seminal book. All of Collins’s books are research-based and are often quite contrarian. But Collins also has shown a remarkable ability to create metaphors that explain very complicated concepts, metaphors that stick in your brain, like the Hedgehog Concept and the Flywheel, which represent important business ideas and have become part of the business lexicon. With Great by Choice, Collins and Hansen continue this winning model.
Based on nine years of research, the authors looked for enterprises that excelled statistically but also excelled in a particularly turbulent environment. “From an initial list of 20,400 companies, we systematically sifted through 11 layers of cuts to identify cases that met all our tests.” Out of this research they found a final set of companies they called 10X because they beat their industry index by at least 10 times. I appreciate that for people who have read Good to Great this sound familiar. The difference is the second basis the researchers used: “The enterprise achieved these results in a particularly turbulent environment, full of events that were uncontrollable, fast-moving, uncertain and potentially harmful.”
The researchers believe that 10Xers display three core behaviors: fanatic discipline, empirical creativity and productive paranoia.
By embracing the myriad of possible dangers, they put themselves in a superior position to overcome danger. 10Xers distinguish themselves not by paranoia per se, but by how they take effective action as a result. Paranoid behavior is enormously functional if fear is channeled into extensive preparation and calm, clear-headed action, hence our term “productive paranoia.”
In the end, the number of 10xer companies were distilled to seven, Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines, and Stryker, and we meet them all in great detail and with surprisingly fresh stories in Great by Choice.
Research is all well and good--and this book presents plenty of it including a substantial section at the back of the book of research notes--, but a book has to be readable, the advice applicable, the examples memorable to really get you thinking and inspire change. Collins and Hansen have done all of that, and in doing so, have given us the perfect book for our times.
Jack Covert Selects - The Management Myth
Posted Aug. 19, 2009 4:10 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
The Management Myth: Why the "Experts" Keep Getting It Wrong by Matthew Stewart, W.W. Norton & Company, 352 Pages, $27.95, Hardcover, August 2009, ISBN 9780393065534
In 1988, newly out of college with a degree in nineteenth-century German philosophy, Matthew Stewart needed a job. During a game of pool in a pub, he heard about new graduates being hired by prestigious consulting firms for big bucks. To prepare for his first interview, the author spent two weeks reading the Financial Times and Tom Peters and Bob Waterman's In Search of Excellence in order to master "management speak." Despite his thin resume, he was hired and went on to guide corporations and CEOs in the ways of business management for years. In The Management Myth, Stewart—who wrote a 2006 article for The Atlantic with the same title—shines a critical light on the industry and suggests that, to succeed in management, it is often better to have a degree in the humanities than an MBA.
Stewart posits that management theory is simply an attempt to create a science out of something that is more variable—more human. And he contends that effort often results in platitudes and "no duh" moments of wisdom, and very little useful advice. He writes:
"I reopen Jim Collins' Good to Great to a random page and find, for example, that 'all good-to-great companies began a process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality.' So true! But then, what is the alternative? Achieving greatness by clinging to fanciful delusions about current reality?"
Other management mavericks, such as Frederick Winslow Taylor and Tom Peters, also get taken to task by Stewart.
There have been other books that have tried what Stewart does here—pointing out the lack of attire worn by the touted management emperors—but nobody, in my opinion, has come close to having this much fun poking holes in the esteemed category. More importantly, Stewart shows us that good management does not belong to an elite group, and instead, that we can learn management skills from the humanists and the philosophers all around us.
Jack Covert Selects - Inspire!
Posted April 14, 2009 4:34 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
Inspire!: Why Customers Come Back by Jim Champy, FT Press, 192 Pages, $22.99 Hardcover, April 2009, ISBN 9780131361881
Some of the most successful business books use the research method to find the standouts in business, and then dig into those organizations to see what makes them so successful. Jim Collin's brilliant Good to Great comes to mind.
Jim Champy, author of Reengineering the Corporation—which is one of the titles featured in our book, The 100 Best Business Books of All Time—also uses the research method. This is his second book in a new series of compact volumes that he describes as follows: "Taken together, these volumes deliver practical advice on how to succeed in today's brave new world of business. That's because they are rooted in the actual experiences and insights of a select group of companies that have found new and better ways to innovate and grow in spite of our challenging economic environment."
The chapter "What Could Be More Inspiring Than Convenience with Economy?" uses the story of car-sharing company Zipcar as an example. Every time Clark Waterfall—the co-founder of high tech headhunter Boston Search Group—had a meeting in town, he had to drive in and deal with the ridiculous Boston traffic, instead of having the convenience of the train he was used to. Parking and the huge commutes were a royal pain. Zipcar has solved his problem, and found a very sweet spot in major metropolitan areas. You pay ZipCar $10 per hour to use their cars. They are parked in convenient places, and you simply wave your Zipcar card to get into a car, drive it for as long as you want, and then return it to that spot and replace the gas. For a commuter like Clark, this is a perfect deal.
In the chapter titled "What Could Be More Inspiring Than a Crusade?" Champy tells the story of Stoneyfield Farm and how they found a need, and created a brand around it, using simple, yet dramatic marketing ideas—like giving their product away for free to create buzz. Champy smartly summarizes each chapter with practical and valuable "Rules of Engagement." This chapter's are "Make sure your customers are true believers," "Don't hesitate to break the rules," "Use every available technique to tell your story," and "Be completely true to your cause," among many, many more.
In closing, I must congratulate either Jim Champy or FT Press for the design of this book. They use different font sizes to highlight and summarize ideas not only very effectively, but attractively as well. I'm looking forward to the future releases in this series. This one is a small treasure that will help you inspire and grow your business.
Jack Covert Selects Good to Great (again)
Posted July 16, 2007 7:45 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
"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.
Jack Covert Selects--Confronting Reality
Posted Oct. 4, 2004 6:38 a.m. by jack
Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, Crown Business, 288 Pages, $27.50 Hardcover, October 2004, ISBN 1400050847
Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan wrote one of, if not, the best business books of the 21st century called Execution. The only other book I believe to be comparable would be Jim Collins Good to Great. As I said about Execution in my June 2002 Jack Covert Selects review of the book:
"Theythe authorssupply building blocks to help make execution a part of a companys core culture and avoid hitting the wall when it comes to strategy. One example: a leaders most important job is the hiring and appraising of the right people. Sound like something for HR to handle? Well, Bossidy doesnt think so, and he personally makes the reference calls for key hires. The authors shore up their argument for greater focus on execution using examples from Lucent, GE, AT&T and others, to show what companies have done right and wrong in terms of executing in the past. They are not afraid to name names, and this gives a real urgency to the subject. "
When Crown Business sent me the manuscript of their new book, I was concerned because I didnt understand why confronting reality would be a suitable follow-up subject after Execution. Five pages into the book I got the point. The subject is beyond timely; it is crucial for all senior people to be able to confront reality.
The book is divided down into four parts: Why Confront Reality; How to Confront Reality; What to Change and What Not to Change; How to Prepare for Change. From these four sections alone it is quite obvious that the information is divided into straightforward, logical and usable sections. One superb story is the story of John Tranni and Stanley Works and how they had to deal with Lowes and Home Depots and Wal-Marts pressure on margins. God knows, we are all being hit by margin pressure and successful organizations are able to deal with that pressure. I especially found the chapter on Thomson revealing as I have watched from the sidelines this organization become stronger and stronger in my area.
Folks, all in all, I have to say that it looks to me that these guys have done it again and created a potential business classic. I have been the first to tell you about some important titles and here is another one. You heard it here first. Buy this book.