Saturday, February 27, 2010

Public broadcasting

today repeated a program by and about John Wooden:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How the mightly fall

is the latest book by Jim Collins:

The book is a study of successful companies that had some significant failure, often resulting in terminal collapse.  The five stages he identifies are:
  • Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success 
  • Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More
  • Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril
  • Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation
  • Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death
In some ways the second stage seemed most characteristic.  It seemed that the companies lost focus on doing a good job, and began to measure themselves by external markers of success that were not relevant to the job they were doing - such as growth, or stock-market price.

This reminded me of the feature of the successful companies that Collins calls 'the hedgehog concept' : "having a simple, extremely clear concept of what their business is".  

Monday, February 8, 2010

Good to great

is the title of a book by Jim Collins:

It's based on Collins' team review of 11 companies that fit the criteria of performing at stock market average for 15 years, then performing at least 3 times above stock market average for 15 years.  Collins and his team compared these companies (Phillip Morris, Kimberley Clark, Walgrees, Wells-Fargo etc) with matched companies in the same area that continued to perform near the stock market average.   Their interest was to find the things that characterized the 'great' companies compared to the 'good' (or rather average) companies.

There's a summary here:

The most striking finding was that the company leaders were of a very characteristic, and in some ways surprising type - summarized in the page above as showing 'great humility' and 'professional will'.  I take the last to mean, that the CEOs had an urgent personal investment in the company doing a good job, whatever that job was. 

Another summary point was to emphasize the importance that the incoming (later successful) CEOs gave to hiring the right people, and the atmosphere that they created - one of robust open discussion.  The teams seemed to allow for strong disagreement, full airing of all points of view, followed by consensus and disciplined action.

Other distinctive features of the successful companies were: brutal honesty and a strong desire for objective information; and patience.   The last is what Collins calls 'the flywheel concept' - that is, slow, patient and disciplined improvement of process.