Good to Great, Jim Collins

Good to Great, Jim Collins

I had this book on my to-read list for too long, obviously when I spot it in our book shelf I grabbed it and read over the vacation. Now just digest what I read because it looks too simple. It is also probably the first book where I feel it is enough to read just the summaries at the end of the chapter AND at the same time doesn’t feel it negatively – it just shows how perfect the summary is, reading the whole chapter was still beneficial to me.

  1. Leadership
  2. who not what
  3. hedgehog concept
  4. discipline
  5. technology (really?)
  6. flywheel
  7. build to last

And that’s the point – the book is actually not „how to do things“ but rather a study what they found in companies who made the leap from good to great. Out of Fortune 500 companies (actually 1435) only 11 qualified. The book lists, in the chapters above, what they found as differencies to all the other companies. It isn’t how to achieve it but what might be the difference and you can just wonder whether you can make it.

Level 5 Leaders

First crucial part for real success. At the same time, while you certainly can change, it probably has to be in you.

Enduring greatess through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.

While the „levels“ below push and demand, this one somehow let it go, trusting people and that it’ll be good. Seriously, that’s enough? „I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job“ or „The number one factor was luck“ are another great quotes from the book, while the people were obviously qualified, demanding, with clear vision, they don’t really sell it like that in the book.

They want to see the company even more successful in the next generation, not to be the biggest dog in the room.

Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck), at the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly.

Who not what

They care about who they will work with not on what. Happy to figure out later on what will they do, but they need to have the right people on the bus (and the wrong off).

With the right people you don’t need to care about motivation or how to manage them. They are flexible enough.

The important part is not about the people as that’s pretty obvious, but the fact that you START with them.

The right people will do the right things and deliver the best results they’re capable of, regardles of the incentive system.

When in doubt don’t hire, keep looking. Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems. Expending energy trying to motivate people is largely a waste of time, the right people are self-motivated. Intense dialogs, heated „scientific“ debate with people engaged in a search for the best answers.

Hedgehog concept

Three circles – what you can be the best in the world at, what drives your economic engine, and what you are deeply passionate about -> the intersection of those is where your business should be. Once you find it and stick with it you will rock, but don’t change it!

Exactly the part what I try to find at Actum and don’t have answer yet. On one handside we want to get work and our aim is pretty general ranging from the „core“ platform implementation to „extensions“ like Marketing Cloud (when we have marketing agency in the house it makes sense), with Field Service being our strongest area but at the same time don’t see that much demand on the market. As Actum we can do anything from CMS, over CRM to ERP and general supply chain consultation to IT security. Great that we can cover almost any IT topic in any company, at the same time aren’t we too broad?

If you feel you aren’t the best in anything, keep looking. Interestingly when the company found that, it was rather recognition of a fact rather than some ground breaking idea.


Avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy and instead create a culture of discipline. With the right people on the bus that must be easy to achieve, I would add.

Set your objectives for the year and record them in the concrete. You can change the plans through the year, but you never change what you measure yourself against.

Exactly how we do it here at Actum. I was so surprised by the fact, especially as I joined mid year to struggling team. How dare you compare me the whole team to some plan I didn’t put together? Definitely not the best feeling, but reading about it that makes some sense.


Well, this one is hard when your living is implementation of technology. But they found out than none of those great companies attribute it any major impact. CIOs who had nothing with technology but came rather from the business side. They understood the needs and didn’t worry that much about what is possible.

It was rather „the second wind“ of their transformations and acted as an accelerating factor. Which is actually a great statement and put me back into ease that I can be in the right field.

Similarly they didn’t care much about their competitors or competetive strategy. Cared about performance, winning, being best, but never in reactive terms.


This can be shortened to the „overnight success doesn’t exist“, but I really like the example about enormous heavy wheel they try to turn around. A lot of energy for nothing but over the time it starts to fly and be quicker and quicker. Don’t try to break it from the beginning, be persistent.

What did they call what they were doing? Interestingly nothing, they just have been doing it. No name for some breaking change, something which will „boom and be there“, constant slow change which was there. Motivation not needed again, because it has to be in the people, you cannot motivate them over long period of time.

So don’t jump right into action, run around, lurch back and forth, implement big programs, skip buildup and jump right to breakthrough, spend a lot of energy trying to align and motivate people, sell the future. You know it all, right? Totally wrong!

Build to Last

Do you want to be just quicker than you were last time or is it important how many people you will take over? Slightly changed perspective, which might have a big impact. Which actually went through the whole book, maybe you can change your KPIs to better align with your philosophy and that will make a big impact.

Now what?

The book brought a lot of food for thought. And I have some tasks – the three circles are probably good start as I’m crossing the Level 5 Leadership of my radar – either I’m one of them or I cannot really achieve it. Happy with whom I have and fully trusting their discipline, not just start the flywheel which takes a bit longer than I would wish for but after 8 months with Actum I can see some light and success in building, crossing my fingers.

You can get it on Amazon or probably everywhere else as well.

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