As our team and community continue to grow, we have started up an internal weekly book club, focused around making ourselves better teammates, leaders, and thinkers.
This week we wrap up book #1, Good to Great by Jim Collins. And while I know there are some flaws in the methodology, this book was a perfect start for our team as we think about how we want to grow. The discussion around the lunch table on Fridays has been unbelievable! Solid 7/10 in my opinion and an easy read.
Here’s what our team took away:
1. Good is the enemy of great.
The biggest takeaway from this book is also the simplest concept. In order to use any of the tools Collins offers, you first must ask yourself, “Do we want to be great?”.
Interestingly enough, the book wraps by offering that for many of the Good to Great companies, it was in fact easier, more motivating, and simpler than the alternative. Regardless, you have to want to be great for any of this to matter. When you take a look around your organization, do you see passion, creativity, and drive? Do you WANT more than good, or is good enough, good enough for your team?
2. Having the right people on the bus is essential, but not for the reason you think.
We all know hiring the right people sets the tone for your organization, duh. However, Collins and the team offer an interesting twist to the age old mantra, “People Come Before Strategy”. In other words, the Good to Great companies were rigorous about hiring the best possible people, AND THEN, giving them the space to help set the direction of the organization within a given framework.
“First Who, Then What”
It was an interesting take, and one that makes a lot of sense.
3. A culture of discipline is about rigour, not punishment.
If you have the right people on the bus you will not need to spend a lot of time motivating them, instead try to focus your efforts on how to not demotivate them.
Organizations that have a high level of punishment disguised as discipline spend 90% of their time trying to motivate the bottom 5% of their workforce. It’s an extreme waste of time and resources. Instead, find the right people, give them a framework to work inside of, and push them to be entrepreneurial in their thoughts, and rigorous fact finders in their autopsies of what didn’t work.
Remove the ego and your workplace arguments become about what’s best for the organization and not the individual. This is quantum.
4. Technology is an Accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.
I’m glad they added this section into the book. Too often we think the problem with our organizations is that they aren’t technologically updated enough, and that a piece of software or hardware can take us to the next level. It can, however, the Good to Great companies weren’t pioneers of cutting edge tech for tech’s sake. They instead focused on what they could be the best in the world at and looked at technology as just another tool in their toolkit to accomplish that goal. It’s subtle, but it really reinforces the idea that you MUST build momentum through people and decision making and then stack technology on as an accelerant.
5. It takes a LOT of time and effort to spin a flywheel.
Showing sustained wins to the team over time ALWAYS beats flashy new programs. The reality is if you consistently show up and do the work, and are rigorous in egoless fact finding, you will inherently hit a breakthrough. It’s about doing the work and staying disciplined in that work that matters most.
Overall the core of this book comes down to creating: Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought, and Disciplined Action.
If you can tie those with: What You Can Be the Best In The World At, What You’re Passionate About, and What Drives Your Economics, then you have the recipe for transforming your organization from Good to Great.
The final note is that this takes time. Like, a LOT of time. Most Good to Great companies took four years to understand their “Why?”, and even longer before they found the best way to execute.
But as they say, “Start by Starting”.
We are moving onto Startup Communities – Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, by Brad Feld starting next week.