Good-to-great companies share seven characteristics
by Barbara Hickey
March 03, 2014 12:03 AM | 1401 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts. - Jim Collins

The author of the quote above wrote, "GOOD-TO-GREAT: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't" to ensure that businesses and I believe organizations learn from their mistakes and make the transition to 'greatness.'

In a five year project, Jim Collins and his research team analyzed 28 companies to determine the characteristics that distinguish a good company from a great one. 

They found the following seven:

  • Level 5 Leadership: Leaders who show their humility while working tirelessly to ensure the company's success.
  • First Who, Then What: Finding the right people will help to adapt to a fast-changing world. The 'Right People' will be self-motivated and want to produce great results. A Great Leader should move them around in order to expose them to all facets of the organization.
  • Confront the Brutal Facts: The Stockdale Paradox:
Collins uses the philosophy of Vietnam War POW Admiral Jim Stockdale - "Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties - and at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

  • The Hedgehog Concept: In an ancient Greek parable foxes, who know many little things, are compared to hedgehogs, who know only one big thing. Collins suggests that leaders of GOOD-TO-GREAT companies know how to simplify complexities and show insight and deep understanding. Using 'three overlapping circles', the author reveals that Great Leaders instinctively ask these questions:
What are you deeply passionate about? 

What can you be the best in the world at?

What drives your economic engine?

  • Culture of Discipline: After hiring self-disciplined people, GOOD-TO-GREAT companies manage the organization with freedom and responsibility as part of the culture.
  • Technology Accelerators: Collins believes that technology can enhance the momentum of the company only if it is relevant to the three circles of the Hedgehog Concept. According to the author's research, "It is never the primary factor in greatness."
  • The Flywheel Effect: GOOD-TO-GREAT companies make incremental changes, refine their concept many times, and evolve over a period of time. With patience, determination, and a belief system that tells you that it will not happen with a 'quick fix' or as Collins calls it, a Doom Loop, success will come.
Until next month let me leave you with my belief that GOOD-TO-GREAT is possible for every organization whether for profit, or not-for-profit, international or local, political or non-partisan. You just have to want it!

Barbara Hickey of Mableton is a community volunteer and owner of The Etiquette School of Atlanta.

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