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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Never, Ever, Give Up, Jim Collins

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Jim began with one of his famous phrases, made popular in his excellent book, "Good to Great:  Why some companies make the leap... while others don't":

Good is the enemy of great.

He also said very importantly that "Greatness is largely a matter of choice, not circumstances."  That's a powerful sentence.  Certainly circumstance plays a part, and Jim acknowledged this later saying that pride and hubris shows itself often when leaders don't acknowledge at all the luck and blessings that have come their way without any of their doing.  However, circumstances alone do not move people to become companies that are built to last, that move from good to great, or become the reasons why the might fall.

Jim focused on the 5 stages in his recent book, "How the Mighty Fall and why some companies never give in" dealing with organizations and leaders who lose momentum and fall from a place of strength and greatness.  What's really helpful about these 5 stages is the truth that "You can be sick on the inside, but still look strong on the outside."  It's important to note that these stages are largely self-inflicted.  Unlike disease, organization decline is more about what you do to yourself that what happens to you.  It's also important to note that the fall doesn't come until stage 4, so you're over 50% on the way before you have presenting issues.

Stages of "How The Mighty Fall"

  1. Hubris born of success leading:  The signature of the greatest leaders is their humility.  They had a passionate focus to go after the vision and values with all they have, but remained humble in the process.  Here, Collins spoke of an outrageous  arrogance that does not see the balance between disciplined decisions and the blessings of circumstance and even luck.  Of course, disciplined decision-making is key, but it's also key to be humble about the things that are out of our control that often contribute greatly to our success.
  2. An undisciplined pursuit of more:  More is not bad in itself.  It is the over-reaching, the undisciplined pursuit of more.  Patrick's Law:  if you allow growth to exceed the ability of the fantastic people to execute, you have been undisciplined in your growth.  If you do not have fantastic people in who fit the 4 C's (see Bill Hybels), you have to wait and not go after more until those people are in place.  One challenging thing Jim said (which, I think, is true) is that if you do not have the right people in place with the character, competence, chemistry, and fit to your culture, then you must wait for the more for which they are required for execution.  "Bad decisions with good intentions are still bad decisions."
  1. Denial of risk and peril:   In order to this, the great leaders and organizations have to have faith (optimism, positivity, etc.), but also have to confront the brutal facts (cf. the chapter on this in Good to Great.)  Optimism without the facts is just a wish-dream, and facts without faith alone is less than motivational and won't move anyone forward.  Failing to look at the real risks and assess the situation, and then take the strong leap of faith with a serious understanding of the risks involved is just plain foolish.
  2. Grasping for Salvation:  Disciplined people engaged in disciplined thought and taking disciplined action make deliberate movement in a determined direction move the fly-wheel.  Those who begin to grasp for salvation have lost their intentionality and disciplined approach.  Their energy dissipates and ultimately leads to decline.
  3. Capitulation to irrelevance or death:  Lasting organizations had a reason to go endure that is more than just money or success.  They had an answer to the question, "What would be lost if we ceased to exist?"  They are driven by a reason that goes beyond money and success, Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG's)

To Do List:

  1. Take a team/ organizational diagnostic.  Check out http://www.goodtogreat.com for 3 free diagnostic tools for your teams and organizations.
  2. Count and account for blessings. When we forget to count all the good things that happen to us, we're on our way to the first stage.
  3. What is your questions to statements ratio, and can you double it in this next year?
  4. How many key seats do you have on your bus?  How many of the seats are filled with the right people?  What are your plans to get the right people in the right seats?  Are you on the way up as a team, or on the way down?
  5. (missed it... but so did everyone else it appears)
  6. With your team of the right people, create an inventory of the brutal facts.
  7. What are we disciplined to stop doing?
  8. Define results and show clicks/ milestones on the fly wheel.
  9. Double your reach to young people by changing your practices without changing your core values.
  10. Set a BHAG rooted in your purpose to reinforce that your work is never done.

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