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am 3. Februar 2013
What immediatly came to my mind, when I read the book in 2013, was that the book is outdated.

The studies and the effects described are quite sound, but the drawn conclusions for the future may very often not apply anymore.
The world changed and the businesses and there contexts changed. Collins principles describe practices for organizations of the past.

Tip: Noble prize winner Daniel Kahneman describes in his book "Thinking, fast and slow", why an approach to draw conclusions for the future by observing past successful companies does not help to guide a company to future success.

"The illusion that one understands the past feeds the further illusion that one can predict and control the future. These illusions are comforting. They reduce the anxiety that we would experience if we allowed ourselves to fully acknowledge the uncertainties of existence."
"The halo effect and outcome bias combine to explain the extraordinary appeal of books that seek to draw operational morals from systematic examination of successful businesses...Because luck plays a large role, the quality of leadership and management practices cannot be inferred reliably from observations of success." (p. 206)

Therefore: You absolutely do not need to read the book.
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am 6. Februar 2013
I love this book. I would like to see more non-fiction books of that kind. Full of insights, not a single person's opinion but a research team's results, clear citations, clear structure.
I would have called the book "From Average or Less to Great". The reason is, that the authors chose companies that have "fifteen-year cumulative stock return at or below the general stock market, punctuated by a transition point, then cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next fifteen years".
While examples are good for illustrations, sometimes the discussion was too exhaustive and I skimmed them in order not to become bored. But fine, others might require them to be there.

Now here are my questions that I found no answer for in the book.
Does the observation interval 1964-1999 for good-to-great companies allow to derive "timeless principles"?
Did the author study the risk of turning a good into a great company, i.e. how many failed while showing the same characteristics (hard to measure!) as the successful ones? As an example, although it worked out fine for them, to me Kimberly-Clark took a high risk turning completely from paper to consumer products.
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am 12. Mai 2007
This study was stimulated by Mr. Bill Meehan's (head of McKinsey in San Francisco) observation that Built to Last wasn't very helpful to companies, because the firms studied had always been great. Most companies have been good, and never great. What should these firms do?

Jim Collins and his team have done an enormous amount of interesting work to determine whether a good company can be come a great company, and how. The answer to the former question is "yes," assuming that the 11 of 1435 Fortune 500 companies did not make it there by accident. The answer to the latter is less clear. The study group identified a number of characteristics that their 11 companies had in common, which were much less frequently present in comparison companies. However, the study inexplicably fails to look at these same characteristics to see how often they succeed in the general population of companies. If these characteristics work 100 percent of the time, you really have something. If they work 5 percent of the time, then not too much is proven.

How were the 11 study companies selected? The criteria take pages to explain in an appendix. Let me simplify by saying that their stock price growth had to be in a range from somewhat lower than to not much higher than the market averages for 15 years. Then, in the next 15 years the stocks had to soar versus the market averages and comparison companies while remaining independent. That's hard to do. The selected companies are Abbott Laboratories, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Nucor, Philip Morris, Pitney Bowes, Walgreen, and Wells Fargo.

As to the "how," attention was focused on what happened before and during the transition from average performance to high performance. Interviews, quantitative analyses, and business press reports were studied. Clearly, there's a tendency to see things a little bit with 20-20 hindsight in such a situation. Since this study started in 1996, it was dealing with facts that were already quite old while they were being examined. Bias is likely.

The key conclusions as to "how" included the following:

(1) a series of CEOs (promoted from within) who combined "personal humility and professional will" focused on making a great company;

(2) an initial focus on eliminating weak people, adding top performing ones, and establishing a culture of top talent putting out extraordinary effort;

(3) then shifting attention to staring at and thinking unceasingly about the hardest facts about the company's situation;

(4) using facts to develop a simple concept that is iteratively reconsidered to focus action on improving performance;

(5) establishing and maintaining a corporate culture of discipline built around commitments, with freedom about how to meet those promises;

(6) using technology to accelerate progress when it fits the company's concept of what it wants to become; and

(7) the company builds momentum from consistent efforts behind its concept that are reinforced by success.

Then, a connection is made to how these 7 conditions can provide the foundation for establishing a Built to Last type of company that can outperform the competition over many decades.

One potential criticism of the study is that its conclusions could be dated. Former Stanford professor Collins argues that he has uncovered basic facts about human organizations that will be unchanging.

I compared the conclusions in this book with my own studies of top performing CEOs and companies in the 1988-2001 time period. I noticed two major differences that suggest a shift in "best practice" standards. First, those who outperform now have developed processes that create major improvements in their operating business models every 2-5 years. Second, senior management development is focused around improving a culture for defining and implementing such improvements. I suspect that item (4) above was an embryonic predecessor to these new dimensions, which occur much more frequently now than in this study.

Next, I compared the list of 7 items to what I had observed in companies. The biggest point that hit me is how few CEOs have been interested in creating long-term outperformance that lasts past their own tenure in an industry. You also have to be a CEO for a long time with that focus before you have a chance to make a lasting impact. Founders have a special advantage here. Perpetuating outperformance may help fill a psychological need for immortality that fits with founders especially well.

Finally, I thought about what I knew about the companies studied from personal contacts during the study years. My sense is that their stories are far more complex than is captured here. So, I think the data have probably been "scrunched" to fit together in some cases. In particular, I wonder whether these companies will greatly outperform in the next 15 years. In many cases, they expanded to meet an unfilled need that is now largely fulfilled. Can they develop a new concept for (4) that will carry them forward as successfully in the future? My guess is that most will not. If that turns out to be the case, we must conclude that the items on this list may be necessary . . . but may not be sufficient to go permanently from good to great. Time will tell.

Before closing, let me observe that if the research team had also looked at the rate by which their principles succeeded among companies that employed them, this would have been one of the very finest research studies on best practices that I have seen. A book like this will provoke much discussion and thought for years to come. Perhaps that information can be included in a future edition or printing. Then, we will have something magnificent to consider!

Do you want to be the best permanently? Why? Or, why not? Mr. Collins points out that it probably takes no more effort, but a lot more discipline and focus.
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am 7. Mai 2004
This study was stimulated by Mr. Bill Meehan's (head of McKinsey in San Francisco) observation that Built to Last wasn't very helpful to companies, because the firms studied had always been great. Most companies have been good, and never great. What should these firms do?

Jim Collins and his team have done an enormous amount of interesting work to determine whether a good company can be come a great company, and how. The answer to the former question is "yes," assuming that the 11 of 1435 Fortune 500 companies did not make it there by accident. The answer to the latter is less clear. The study group identified a number of characteristics that their 11 companies had in common, which were much less frequently present in comparison companies. However, the study inexplicably fails to look at these same characteristics to see how often they succeed in the general population of companies. If these characteristics work 100 percent of the time, you really have something. If they work 5 percent of the time, then not too much is proven.

How were the 11 study companies selected? The criteria take pages to explain in an appendix. Let me simplify by saying that their stock price growth had to be in a range from somewhat lower than to not much higher than the market averages for 15 years. Then, in the next 15 years the stocks had to soar versus the market averages and comparison companies while remaining independent. That's hard to do. The selected companies are Abbott Laboratories, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Kroger, Nucor, Philip Morris, Pitney Bowes, Walgreen, and Wells Fargo.

As to the "how," attention was focused on what happened before and during the transition from average performance to high performance. Interviews, quantitative analyses, and business press reports were studied. Clearly, there's a tendency to see things a little bit with 20-20 hindsight in such a situation. Since this study started in 1996, it was dealing with facts that were already quite old while they were being examined. Bias is likely.

The key conclusions as to "how" included the following:

(1) a series of CEOs (promoted from within) who combined "personal humility and professional will" focused on making a great company;

(2) an initial focus on eliminating weak people, adding top performing ones, and establishing a culture of top talent putting out extraordinary effort;

(3) then shifting attention to staring at and thinking unceasingly about the hardest facts about the company's situation;

(4) using facts to develop a simple concept that is iteratively reconsidered to focus action on improving performance;

(5) establishing and maintaining a corporate culture of discipline built around commitments, with freedom about how to meet those promises;

(6) using technology to accelerate progress when it fits the company's concept of what it wants to become; and

(7) the company builds momentum from consistent efforts behind its concept that are reinforced by success.

Then, a connection is made to how these 7 conditions can provide the foundation for establishing a Built to Last type of company that can outperform the competition over many decades.

One potential criticism of the study is that its conclusions could be dated. Former Stanford professor Collins argues that he has uncovered basic facts about human organizations that will be unchanging.

I compared the conclusions in this book with my own studies of top performing CEOs and companies in the 1988-2001 time period. I noticed two major differences that suggest a shift in "best practice" standards. First, those who outperform now have developed processes that create major improvements in their operating business models every 2-5 years. Second, senior management development is focused around improving a culture for defining and implementing such improvements. I suspect that item (4) above was an embryonic predecessor to these new dimensions, which occur much more frequently now than in this study.

Next, I compared the list of 7 items to what I had observed in companies. The biggest point that hit me is how few CEOs have been interested in creating long-term outperformance that lasts past their own tenure in an industry. You also have to be a CEO for a long time with that focus before you have a chance to make a lasting impact. Founders have a special advantage here. Perpetuating outperformance may help fill a psychological need for immortality that fits with founders especially well.

Finally, I thought about what I knew about the companies studied from personal contacts during the study years. My sense is that their stories are far more complex than is captured here. So, I think the data have probably been "scrunched" to fit together in some cases. In particular, I wonder whether these companies will greatly outperform in the next 15 years. In many cases, they expanded to meet an unfilled need that is now largely fulfilled. Can they develop a new concept for (4) that will carry them forward as successfully in the future? My guess is that most will not. If that turns out to be the case, we must conclude that the items on this list may be necessary . . . but may not be sufficient to go permanently from good to great. Time will tell.

Before closing, let me observe that if the research team had also looked at the rate by which their principles succeeded among companies that employed them, this would have been one of the very finest research studies on best practices that I have seen. A book like this will provoke much discussion and thought for years to come. Perhaps that information can be included in a future edition or printing. Then, we will have something magnificent to consider!

Do you want to be the best permanently? Why? Or, why not? Mr. Collins points out that it probably takes no more effort, but a lot more discipline and focus.
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am 12. Juni 2002
Rethinking how you've always done things isn't easy. Especially in business, we often fall into deep ruts without even knowing it. Surprisingly, many good businesses, and many good business leaders, are stuck in ways of thinking that prevent them from having any real chance of becoming great. This book shows you how to escape the hold of conventional business wisdom, how to leave others scratching their heads wondering "Why didn't I think of that?" The book, and companion works such as the more recent publication Why Didn't I Think of That? - Think the Unthinkable and Achieve Creative Greatness, will take you to whole new levels of business success by teaching you the disciplines that have allowed truly great companies and great business leaders to make the leap from "good" to "great." On making the leap, these highly successful people and organizations achieve creative greatness by thinking what had been unthinkable before taking the leap to ultimate success. Look and you will find these books on the shelves of many good people in the process of leaping to greatness.
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am 25. März 2011
Business books usually disappear from the shelves quite quickly. Not `Good to Great'. Ten years after it was released sales are still impressive. This is a clear long-term endorsement of Jim Collins' ideas. He presents a model for turnaround that simply works. Studying companies that manage 15 years of great performance after 15 years of average performance he describes what needs to be done:
- Level 5 Leadership: Leaders need to be humble but still capable of taking tough decisions that work best for the company
- Who before What: Companies should first decide whom they want on the team and then together find the best way to make changes
- Confront the Brutal Facts: Don't try to hide what's wrong!
- Develop a Hedgehog Concept: You need to figure out what you are passionate about, be the best in, and how this contributes to your bottom line
- Be selective about Technology: don't use technology for technology's sake but only if it fits your hedgehog concept

Once you used this approach to turn your company around the next question of course arises, how do you stay there? Jim Collins wrote another book with Jerry Porras (Built to Last) that helps you with this. As this was written in the early 1990s and deals at length with topics such as `vision' (hot then but not necessarily today), you might instead want to pick up a newly released book that tackles this question in a similar manner: 'Enduring Success. What we can learn from the history of outstanding corporations' (by Christian Stadler).
Great companion to go with `Good to Great'.
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am 17. Dezember 2012
Es handelt sich hierbei um den Wunsch eines Enkels. Leider verstehe ich den Inhalt nicht und kann ihn deshalb nicht bewerten.
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am 2. März 2002
More than 15,000 hours of research work went into this book, and it has really paid off. This is a well written summary of the key differences between 11 "good-to-great" companies and "direct comparison" companies.
Collins and his team identify seven key areas in which the "good-to-great" companies siginificantly differ from their "direct comparison" competitors. Some of their insights are surprising: e.g. "good-to-great" companies usually do not have well-known leaders.
Although the book is primarily academic and based on data, it is a good reading also for the practitioner who is not that interested in all the details of the research work. If you are, however, interested in the details of the methodology - Collins describes it in quite some detail in the appendices.
In summary, this is one of the best books I know that is suitable both for a business and an academic audience.
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am 5. Oktober 2006
Jim Collins und sein Team machten sich - nach Built to Last - erneut ans Auswerten. Dieses Mal untersuchten sie Unternehmen die nach langen Jahren normaler Performance, eine langjährige (mindestens 15 Jahre) Outperformance des Aktienmarktes hinlegten. Sie versuchten herauszufinden, wodurch sich diese Unternehmen von vergleichbaren Peers unterscheiden. Die Dinge die sie fanden überraschten sie selbst. Im Folgenden ein kurzer Überblick über die entdeckten Grundkonzepte, die im Buch ausgeführt werden.

Level 5 Leadership: Eines der für das Team überraschendsten Ergebnisse war, dass es niemals die hochgelobten CEOs waren, die eine langfristig herausragende Performance schafften. Zurückzuführen ist das darauf, dass diese charismatischen Führer - oft auch Egomanen - niemals das langfristige Wohl des Unternehmens im Auge haben. Deshalb kommt es nachdem diese Leute das Unternehmen verlassen häufig zu einem Einbruch, weil niemand den Schuh anziehen kann. Schlimmer noch ist allerdings die Tatsache, dass durch diese Art von Führungskraft, die Mitarbeiter sich des Denkens enthoben fühlen und daher die große Stärke von Gruppen verloren geht. Collins schließt aus den erhobenen Fakten, dass es die "selbstlosen" Führer sind, wenngleich er sich korrigiert und sagt, dass diese natürlich nicht wirklich selbstlos sind. Dennoch haben alle gemeinsam, dass sie daran interessiert sind etwas Großes zu schaffen und nicht daran selbst gut dazustehen.

First Who ... Then What: Punkt zwei der Findings war, dass alle diese Unternehmen sich von einem Dogma verabschiedet haben, das die Managementliteratur seit Jahren unangetastet ließ. Collins zeigt auf, dass es entscheidender ist, die richtigen Personen zu identifizieren als eine Strategie zu haben. Diese starken Manager sind in der Lage die optimale Strategie zu finden, sie sind intrinsisch motiviert und verschreiben sich dem sozialen Gefüge und nicht der Strategie. Die klare - und oft wiederholte - Ansage lautet: Get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus. Interessant auch, dass Collins zwar darauf hinweist, dass diese Menschen sehr gern und viel arbeiten, dass sie aber eine sehr ausgewogene Work-Life-Balance haben. Frei nach dem Motto: "Work smart not hard".

Confront the Brutal Facts: Der Punkt lässt sich leicht zusammenfassen, obwohl Collins sehr viele interessante Worte darüber macht und es gut veranschaulicht. Kurz gesagt: Es braucht viel Realismus und nicht so viel Optimismus. Oder wie die alte Indianerweisheit schon sagt: Es hat keinen Sinn ein totes Pferd zu reiten. Dieses Kapitel ist ein Aufruf die Unternehmenskultur so zu gestalten, dass Menschen sich trauen Schwachstellen aufzuzeigen.

The Hedgehog Concept: Hier greift Collins zu der Fabel um Fuchs und Igel. Der Fuchs mit seinen vielen Ideen, wie er den Igel fassen kann und der Igel mit einer einzigen Ideen, aber dafür mit einer glänzenden. Der Fuchs erwischt den Igel niemals, egal wie sehr er sich anstrengt. Collins will hier letztlich darauf hinaus, dass jedes Unternehmen etwas braucht, das es ganz speziell macht. Ein Bereich wo es Weltspitze (bzw. Lokalmatador) ist. Danach braucht es noch die Disziplin daran (und nur daran) festzuhalten. Er geht darauf ein, wie dieser Punkt zu finden ist und wie er sich von der klassischen Strategie (die er nicht ersetzen kann) unterscheidet.

A Culture of Discipline: Freiheit und dennoch Disziplin? Genau das konstatiert er in den Top-Unternehmen! Die Mitarbeiter sind eigenverantwortlich an den Zielen orientiert, diese Art von Disziplin unterscheidet sich klar von derjenigen eines Tyrannen, der Disziplin durchsetzt. Ein feiner Unterschied, den Erich Fromm schon in "Haben oder Sein" beschrieb. Letztlich aber lässt sich dieser Punkt bereits durch die ersten beiden Feststellungen (Level-5-Leadership, Get the right people on the bus) dingfest machen.

Technology Accelerators: Ein ebenfalls interessanter Faktor ist, dass Technologie zwar von all diesen Unternehmen als Hebel eingesetzt wurde um ihre Pläne umzusetzen, aber sie wurde niemals zum Selbstzweck. Immer stand der unbedingte Bedarf an einer technischen Lösung im Vordergrund, niemals die Technologieverliebtheit. Gezielter Einsatz von Technologie ist sinnvoll und notwendig, aber nur so lange wie man weiß was man sich genau davon erwartet. Es kann dann sogar sinnvoll sein, unverschämt viel Geld in die Hand zu nehmen, aber das Ziel muss bekannt sein.

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Hier weist Collins nochmals darauf hin, dass diese Konzepte auf Dauer angelegt sein müssen. Hat ein Unternehmen einmal sein Hedgehog Concept gefunden, dann soll es daran auch festhalten. Alle untersuchten Unternehmen zeichneten sich durch Beständigkeit in der Verfolgung dieses zentralen Konzepts aus, während bei den Vergleichsunternehmen häufig Wechsel in dieser grundlegenden Strategie zu sehen waren. Um dies klar zu machen, nimmt Collins das Beispiel eines riesigen Schwungrades, das nur langsam in Gang kommt - und daher erfordert es Geduld um es in Gang zu bekommen, aber diese Energie geht nicht verloren. Wechselt man aber die Richtung, weil das Management meint es ginge zu langsam, dann vernichtet man die bereits investierte Energie - und der plötzliche Durchbruch gelingt dennoch nicht.

Soweit zum Inhalt. Das Buch ist sehr gut geschrieben, leicht nachvollziehbar. Auch wenn die Funde dem gesunden Menschenverstand entsprechen, sind sie doch diametral zu vielen anderen Lehrbüchern. Es ist ein Buch über einen neuen Ansatz für die Unternehmensführung. Nicht Glanz und Gloria, sondern Demut, Umsicht und Geduld sind die Forderungen von Collins. Ein ausgesprochen interessantes und wertvolles Stück Forschung.
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am 31. Januar 2006
Jim Collins beschreibt detailliert, warum viele Unternehmen nur "gut" bleiben und nur einige wenige den Sprung zu "großartig" geschafft haben.

Anders als bei anderen amerikanischen Management Büchern beschränkt sich Jim Collins nicht darauf aus dem Nähkästchen zu plaudern (was im Übrigen sehr unterhaltend sein kann), sondern belegt seine strategischen Schlüsse mit wissenschaftlichen Erhebungen. Aufgrund des methodischeren und wissenschaftlichen Schriftstils lässt sich "Good to Great" etwas schwieriger lesen als vergleichbare amerikanische Management Bücher, ist aber immer noch flüssiger und leichter zu lesen als die Deutschen Pendants ohne jedoch den Bezug auf eine fundierte wissenschaftliche Basis vermissen zu lassen.

Als Elementar für die Grundlagen für den Sprung von „gut" zu „großartig" beschreibt Jim Collins die Beantwortung folgender Fragen:
Was kann ich am besten?
Wofür habe ich wirklich Leidenschaft?
Welche wirtschaftliche Kenngröße treibt mein Geschäft?

Darüber hinaus hält Collins nicht generell die Mitarbeiter für den Erfolgsfaktor für Unternehmen, sondern die RICHTIGEN Mitarbeiter an den RICHTIGEN Positionen. "Get the right people on the bus and in the right seats".
Im Weiteren geht Collins noch auf die Bedeutung der „Igel" - Strategie ein, welches ich dem Leser hier jedoch nicht vorwegnehmen möchte.

Fazit:
Insgesamt merkt der Leser, dass sich Jim Collins und sein Forschungsteam fünf Jahre lang mit dem Unterschied zwischen "gut" und "großartig" intensiv beschäftigt haben und dadurch in der Lage sind handfeste Empfehlungen abzugeben.
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