Friday, August 17, 2007

Good to Great, by Jim Collins

And here it is...the long awaited Good to Great report!

I think one could safely say the whole purpose for our library is to share inspirational ideas. So, the inspirational ideas from Good to Great could just about be lined up from the table of contents. Each chapter is built around one of the key differentiating concepts which emerged from a research study conducted by the author, Jim Collins. After having coauthored Built to Last, a research study which showed "how great companies triumph over time," Jim was curious about how a company which may not have started out great, could become great. The answers he and his researchers found are Good to Great.

The companies which they choose to investigate were selected for having been good and then having made a sudden change to great (average returns seven times the market) which was sustained (15 years+). They settled on 11 companies and then choose comparison companies which had similar size and performance at the outset, but failed to make the transition to great. They then set about to determine what had made the difference.

The general pattern they found was one of discipline--disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Disciplined people manifested as what they called Level 5 Leadership and the principle of First Who....Then What. Disciplined thought showed up as a willingness to Confront the Brutal Facts and the Hedgehog Concept. Disciplined action was created through a general Culture of Discipline and their roles as industry Technology Accelerators.

Although all the concepts and structures were present in all of the companies, and each is integrated with the others, the ideas which had the most impact on me were First Who....Then What and the Hedgehog Concept.

First Who...Then What pertains to a human resources management style, which places emphasis on the quality of the person over the experience or education they may have. This was obviously borrowed by our beloved High-Lus, as one look at the great people I work with will tell you. By looking for people who are naturally passionate and invested in what they do, and giving them enough latitude to make their own solutions, there is no need to “motivate” (i.e. hound, pester, or parent). Make the general goals and character of the company clear, and let internally-motivated people find the best way to fulfill their role. Sounds familiar, huh?

This leads us to my second fav, the Hedgehog Concept, which is essentially a way to define the largest goals and overall direction for a company (or for oneself). The hedgehog in our story comes from an ancient Greek parable, "The Hedgehog and The Fox," which says that though “the fox knows many things...the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The next time you see a fox and a hedgehog together, watch and you’ll notice that the cunning fox is constantly re-thinking his attack, trying different angles, traps and ploys. The hedgehog thwarts them all by simply rolling into a spiny, unassailable ball and waiting for danger to pass. Every time. Again and again. He knows what works best for him, and he uses it.

This pastoral image translates to the business world through the application of Simplicity within the Three Circles. The Three Circles are actually questions a company asks itself. The first is, “What can you be the best in the world at?” the second is “What drives your economic engine?” and the third is “What are you deeply passionate about?” These three create the actual Hedgehog Concept itself, which is the intersection of the three questions. The example he gives us is to frame the questions for oneself (how convenient!). What do you have a genetic or God-given talent for? What are you passionate about and absolutely love to do? What are you paid well for, or how can you get paid more for doing what you love?

The intersection of these will provide you with the one thing you should focus on to the exclusion of anything else. These questions well applied should distill your work activity to what will make the biggest impact on your overall success and happiness, both financially and otherwise. Collins is equally emphatic that anything that falls outside of these three circles should be minimized if not eliminated, as in the long run, anything else will be a waste of time and energy. So while many companies try to diversify in times of crisis, organizations operating under a clear Hedgehog Concept only have to focus more strongly on what they already know works.

Good to Great was an excellent introduction to the kind of thinking that predominates at lululemon. After all, we are trying to elevate the world from good to great, one groove pant at a time!

1 comment:

Tori said...

Awesome Job Shad! Wow! You really summed it all up beautifully!