Good to Great

by

Jim Collins

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Good-to-great Term Analysis

Jim Collins and his research team use the term “good-to-great” to describe the eleven companies selected for their study. In order to qualify, each company had to display average or below-average stock market returns for fifteen years and then undergo a remarkable transition, followed by fifteen years of cumulative returns at least three times higher than average. The team selected long time periods to ensure that a company’s success had outlasted the tenure of a single good leader, and it also required that the good-to-great companies show a transition pattern independent of their industries. That is, if an entire industry showed a pattern of remarkable growth, then companies from that industry were disqualified from the study. Finally, Collins acknowledges that stock returns are just one of many possible measures of greatness, but notes that his team agreed on this measure because it is objective and based on detailed, readily available data.

Good-to-great Quotes in Good to Great

The Good to Great quotes below are all either spoken by Good-to-great or refer to Good-to-great. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Possibility of Transformation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of Good to Great published in 2011.
Chapter 1  Quotes

The best answer I can give is that it was an iterative process of looping back and forth, developing ideas and testing them against the data, revising the ideas, building a framework, seeing it break under the weight of evidence, and rebuilding it yet again. That process was repeated over and over, until everything hung together in a coherent framework of concepts.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hedgehog Concept
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

That good is the enemy of great is not just a business problem. It is a human problem. If we have cracked the code on the question of good to great, we should have something of value to any type of organization. Good schools might become great schools. Good newspapers might become great newspapers. Good churches might become great churches. Good government agencies might become great agencies. And good companies might become great companies. So, I invite you to join me on an intellectual adventure to discover what it takes to turn good into great.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2  Quotes

Level 5 leaders are a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless. To quickly grasp this concept, think of United States president Abraham Lincoln (one of the few Level 5 presidents in United States history), who never let his ego get in the way of his primary ambition for the larger cause of an enduring great nation. Yet those who mistook Mr. Lincoln’s personal modesty, shy nature, and awkward manner as signs of weakness found themselves terribly mistaken, to the scale of 250,000 Confederate and 360,000 Union lives, including Lincoln’s own. While it might be a bit of a stretch to compare the good-to-great CEOs to Abraham Lincoln, they did display the same duality.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

If you have the right executives on the bus, they will do everything in their power to build a great company, not because of what they will “get” for it, but because they simply cannot imagine settling for anything less. Their moral code requires excellence for its own sake, and you’re no more likely to change that with a compensation package than you’re likely to affect whether they breathe. The good-to-great companies understood a simple truth: The right people will do the right things and deliver the best results they’re capable of, regardless of the incentive system.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

Members of the good-to-great teams tended to become and remain friends for life. In many cases, they are still in close contact with each other years or decades after working together. It was striking to hear them talk about the transition era, for no matter how dark the days or how big the tasks, these people had fun! They enjoyed each other’s company and actually looked forward to meetings. A number of the executives characterized their years on the good-to-great teams as the high point of their lives. Their experiences went beyond just mutual respect (which they certainly had), to lasting comradeship.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5  Quotes

It may seem odd to talk about something as soft and fuzzy as “passion” as an integral part of a strategic framework. But throughout the good-to-great companies, passion became a key part of the Hedgehog Concept. You can’t manufacture passion or “motivate” people to feel passionate. You can only discover what ignites your passion and the passions of those around you.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hedgehog Concept
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

Does every organization have a Hedgehog Concept to discover? What if you wake up, look around with brutal honesty, and conclude: “We’re not the best at anything, and we never have been.” Therein lies one of the most exciting aspects of the entire study. In the majority of cases, the good-to-great companies were not the best in the world at anything and showed no prospects of becoming so. Infused with the Stockdale Paradox … every good-to-great company, no matter how awful at the start of the process, prevailed in its search for a Hedgehog Concept.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hedgehog Concept
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6  Quotes

I realize that it’s a bizarre analogy. But in a sense, the good-to-great companies became like David Scott. Much of the answer to the question of “good to great” lies in the discipline to do whatever it takes to become the best within carefully selected arenas and then to seek continual improvement from there. It’s really just that simple. And it’s really just that difficult.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hedgehog Concept
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7  Quotes

Indeed, the big point of this chapter is not about technology per se. No technology, no matter how amazing—not computers, not telecommunications, not robotics, not the Internet—can by itself ignite a shift from good to great.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8  Quotes

But the good-to-great executives simply could not pinpoint a single key event or moment in time that exemplified the transition. Frequently, they chafed against the whole idea of allocating points and prioritizing factors. In every good-to-great company, at least one of the interviewees gave an unprompted admonishment, saying something along the lines of, “Look, you can’t dissect this thing into a series of nice little boxes and factors, or identify the moment of ‘Aha!’ or the ‘one big thing.’ It was a whole bunch of interlocking pieces that built one upon another.”

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Flywheel
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

Although it may have looked like a single-stroke breakthrough to those peering in from the outside, it was anything but that to the people experiencing the transformation from within. Rather, it was a quiet, deliberate process of figuring out what needed to be done to create the best future results and then simply taking those steps, one after the other, turn by turn of the flywheel. After pushing on that flywheel in a consistent direction over an extended period of time, they’d inevitably hit a point of breakthrough.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Flywheel
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

Consider Kroger. How do you get a company of over 50,000 people—cashiers, baggers, shelf stockers, produce washers, and so forth—to embrace a radical new strategy that will eventually change virtually every aspect of how the company builds and runs grocery stores? The answer is that you don’t. Not in one big event or program, anyway.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Flywheel
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Perhaps your quest to be part of building something great will not fall in your business life. But find it somewhere. If not in corporate life, then perhaps in making your church great. If not there, then perhaps a nonprofit, or a community organization, or a class you teach. Get involved in something that you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be, not because of what you will get, but just because it can be done.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:
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Good-to-great Term Timeline in Good to Great

The timeline below shows where the term Good-to-great appears in Good to Great. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
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Collins goes on to describe how he and his research team selected the good-to-great companies that they studied for this book. To be in included, the companies had to... (full context)
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The researchers eventually settled on eleven good-to-great example companies. Each company selected had shown the good-to-great trend without being in an overall... (full context)
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...group, the “direct comparison companies,” includes companies that were in the same industry as the good-to-great companies but did not transition into great results. The second group, the “unsustained comparison companies,”... (full context)
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...of data, they sought to find out what was inside the “black box” of the good-to-great transition. The full details of the researchers’ analyses are included in the book’s appendices. (full context)
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...be influential were actually not significant. Some of the factors that did not, surprisingly, affect good-to-great transitions include charismatic leaders, executive compensation, advanced technology, and long-term strategic planning. Additionally, none of... (full context)
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...and applicable to any company, regardless of economic or social change. He notes that the good-to-great principles may apply just as much to other organizations or even individuals as they do... (full context)
Chapter 2 
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...ascribing importance to leaders, they eventually had to accept that every one of the eleven good-to-great companies was led by a Level 5 Leader at the time of their remarkable transitions. (full context)
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...worried that public opinion of the large payments would damage the company’s reputation. Leaders of good-to-great companies usually set their successors up for success, while comparison companies usually did the opposite. (full context)
Chapter 3
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Collins notes that he expected the study to show that good-to-great companies first set a new vision to guide their transformation, then found people to support... (full context)
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Finally, Collins notes that even though good-to-great companies are generally demanding workplaces, their processes of finding and keeping the right people can... (full context)
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...executives to have great companies and great lives. With the right people in place, the good-to-great data indicate, CEOs are freed up to work reasonable hours, tend to their families and... (full context)
Chapter 4 
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...without hesitation, and that its story is an example of a broader trend among the good-to-great companies. (full context)
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...“facts are better than dreams” when it comes to planning strategic changes. In every case, good-to-great companies based their transitions on the facts of their industries’ reality, which were often brutal. (full context)
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...Turning to strategies for creating that kind of culture, Collins notes that one trend among good-to-great companies is leadership focused on questions rather than answers. For example, CEO Alan Wurtzel of... (full context)
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Additionally, the good-to-great companies illustrate the importance of relying on debate and dialogue, rather than coercion, to buy... (full context)
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In addition to facing the brutal facts, the good-to-great companies also showed the ability to keep believing that they would succeed, even when the... (full context)
Chapter 5 
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Collins goes on to state that the people who led good-to-great companies were all hedgehogs in one way or another, who developed clear, concise “Hedgehog Concepts”... (full context)
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Along with his research team, Collins found that the Hedgehog Concepts used to guide good-to-great companies were generally developed based on understanding of three key dimensions of a company. Collins... (full context)
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...into detail about all of these economic insights, but he does point out that each good-to-great company successfully found one crucial “economic denominator”; that is, one ratio (profit per store, for... (full context)
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...meaningful experience. Rather than trying to be passionate about their activities after choosing the activities, good-to-great companies consistently decided what to do based on what they could be passionate about. That... (full context)
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Collins also emphasizes that Hedgehog Concepts can only be created through sustained debate, with most good-to-great companies taking at least four years to clarify theirs. He also brings up the idea... (full context)
Chapter 6 
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...stated in an interview with the research team that he learned this approach working at good-to-great company Abbott Laboratories, where objectives were clearly measured and rigorously worked toward. (full context)
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...but they should be able to make important decisions within those systems. Each of the good-to-great companies had such a system, which relied on having the right people onboard to operate... (full context)
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...are the second crucial component of a culture of discipline. He notes that people in good-to-great companies “became somewhat extreme in the fulfillment of their responsibilities.” Collins calls this diligence the... (full context)
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...ventures and acquisitions that had little to do with their core concepts. Collins notes that good-to-great companies consistently turned down even “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities” when those opportunities did not match the company’s... (full context)
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...lists” as a method to achieve the four components of a culture of discipline. Many good-to-great CEOs, including Darwin Smith of Kimberly-Clark, paid scrupulous attention to cutting out tasks and activities... (full context)
Chapter 7 
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The contrast between Walgreens and drugstore.com illustrates the core idea of this chapter: good-to-great companies show that technology is only an asset when it is applied methodically in service... (full context)
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Collins lists the ways that each good-to-great company embraced new technology methodically, from Kroger’s early adoption of bar code scanners to Gillette’s... (full context)
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Good-to-great companies often became pioneers in the use of technology, when that technology tied closely to... (full context)
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Additionally, most of the good-to-great executives the researchers interviewed did not emphasize technology as a key to their success, even... (full context)
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...team ultimately decided to include the chapter because of the way technology use illuminates the good-to-great companies’ devotion to achieving excellence for its own sake. In contrast, the comparison companies were... (full context)
Chapter 8 
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...that this process of “buildup and breakthrough” appears in the transformations of each of the good-to-great companies. (full context)
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Even though the good-to-great transformations all occurred through the gradual effort of the flywheel model, serious media coverage of... (full context)
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...how he and his team tried repeatedly to find “the one big thing” that defined good-to-great companies’ moments of breakthrough. However, their interviews always indicated that progress was incremental and cumulative,... (full context)
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...and commitment occur naturally, without being forced by management. Instead of setting grand goals, the good-to-great companies created enthusiasm using the steady gains of the flywheel. (full context)
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...it. Collins notes that a major contrast between the two sets of companies is that good-to-great companies made acquisitions after defining Hedgehog Concepts and creating momentum with the flywheel, while comparison... (full context)
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...the two key concepts of consistency and coherence. The flywheel shows that each of the good-to-great characteristics that Collins identifies throughout the book must work together in a coherent whole, wherein... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Collins turns his attention to bringing the good-to-great concepts together with the ideas outlined in his previous book, Built to Last, which examined... (full context)
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...that the early leaders of the companies studied in Built to Last seemed to follow good-to-great principles when building the companies. For example, Collins describes how Walk-Mart (one of the Built... (full context)
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...of having them seems to be crucial nonetheless. Collins relates these deep ideologies to the good-to-great concept of passion as one of the three circles that create effective Hedgehog Concepts. (full context)
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...concepts of Built to Last and lists how they line up with each of the good-to-great concepts. He also focuses in more detail on the connection between Hedgehog Concepts and the... (full context)