Valuable insights from Jim Collins “Good to Great” (Part two)

What makes a company great. What generates a workplace where people feel fulfilled, where every nose points in the same direction and where great results are achieved?

Jim Collins’ answers in his bestselling book “Good to Great” are surprisingly simple, pragmatic and straightforward.

To go from a good company to a great company you need disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action.

We talked about the first concept in our previous blogpost, now let’s dive in to the second: disciplined thought.

Second concept: Disciplined thought

Confront the brutal facts

If you have a level 5 leader, and you have the right people, then the whole organization is able to put company performance ahead of their own ego. This enables you to confront the brutal facts, without losing faith that the company will succeed.

Great results can only be achieved when you making good decisions and then execute them well. To make good decisions you need to confront the facts, even if those facts are brutal and uncomfortable. To avoid distorting the facts you need an atmosphere where the truth is welcomed.

There are four practices to help you create this:

  • Lead with questions not with answers

  • Engage in dialog and debate

  • Conduct autopsies without blame and use them to learn

  • Build red flag mechanisms

By confronting the brutal facts, the organization becomes more resilient and people become excited about the chance to take on a challenge that seems impossible. It keeps motivation high. The reality is that pretending the realities of the marketplace don’t exist will sap everyone’s motivation. They’ll just be going through the motions.

In summary, confronting the brutal facts means its fine to have an ambitious destination in mind, as long as you continually adapt your plan every day as new brutal facts emerge.

Business, and of course life, will inevitably throw lots of difficulties at us. But it is how we handle these difficulties that will have the biggest impact on the course of our lives and our business.

The Hedgehog Concept

The second step for disciplined thought and going from Good to Great is the Hedgehog Concept. To explain this concept let’s look at the difference between a fox and a hedgehog.

A fox is a clever creature. It sees the world in all its complexity and can pursue many goals at once. A hedgehog is a much more simple creature. It doesn’t get bogged down by all the complexity. It’s really only able to do one thing well: curl up into a ball to protect itself. Hedgehogs are not capable of seeing complexity. All they see is a single goal and they execute to achieve that goal.

Good to Great companies behave in a similar way to a hedgehog. They stick to doing what they’re best at and avoid getting distracted. It’s incredibly easy to get distracted, with even great companies having to fight to stop this from happening.

So, how does your organization become more like a hedgehog and less like a fox? You can find your inner hedgehog at the intersection of these three questions:

  • What do you feel most passionate about?

  • What can you be best in the world at?

  • What drives your economic engine?

What do you feel most passionate about?

This is an important question because passion is hugely motivating. Great companies don’t tell their employees what to be passionate about. They find what their employees are already passionate about and then look for projects aligned to those passions.

What can you be best in the world at?

This is about more than developing a great core. It’s about deciding on one key area that your business can do better than any other business in the field. It’s then about focusing on this area exclusively so nobody else can match you.

Note that this is about focusing on what you can be the best at, not what you want to be the best at.

What drives your economic engine?

What is the one factor that creates money for your organization? You think of the economic engine as being like the blood flowing through our bodies. It doesn’t define us and it’s not who we are and what we are about, but without it we simply can’t survive very long.

If the company is working at the intersection of all three questions. Of passion. Of being the best. In an area where money can be created. Then it’s going to be likely that the company will be successful.

Good to Great companies set their goals based on their Hedgehog Concept. This is very different from setting your goals from the desire to grow, for example. It takes time to develop your Hedgehog Concept. It’s not going to happen overnight, in a flash of brilliant inspiration.

The Hedgehog Concept is a turning point in the journey from Good to Great. The remaining concepts only make sense if you have your Hedgehog Concept in place.

Good luck with developing in a hedgehog. At HumanITi, we can help you take the clutter away and helping you focus on that one single thing where you’re best at by using the right technology in the right (human) way.

Talk to you soon about the third and last Collins concept, ‘disciplined action’



Bron: Vicky Buelens

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