Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Confront the Brutal Facts, Yet Never Lose Faith

I recently finished reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. It was one of those "recommended" books in grad school that I never got around to reading until now. Actually, it was one of those that I started, got about 30 pages into, and put away. Anyways, I finally got around to reading it. Here are my favorite quotes from Chapter 4 - Confront the Brutal Facts, Yet Never Lose Faith.

…the good-to-great companies continually refined the path to greatness with the brutal facts of reality. (71)
The moment a leader allows himself to become the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality, you have a recipe for mediocrity, or worse. This is one of the key reasons why less charismatic leaders often produce better long-term results than their more charismatic counterparts. (72)

…expending energy trying to motivate people is largely a waste of time.

The real question becomes, How do you manage in such a way as not de-motivate people? (74)

…they used questions for one and only one reason: to gain understanding. (75)

…all the good-to-great companies had a penchant for intense dialogue. The process was more like a heated scientific debate, with people engaged in a search for the best answers. (77)

In confronting the brutal facts, the good-to-great companies left themselves stronger and more resilient, not weaker and more dispirited. We will never give up. We will never capitulate. It might take a long time, but we will find a way to prevail. (81)

…a powerful psychological duality. On the one hand, they stoically accepted the brutal facts of reality. On the other hand, they maintained an unwavering faith in the endgame, and a commitment to prevail as a great company despite the brutal facts. (83)

You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. (85)

…they all maintained unwavering faith that they would not just survive, but prevail as a great company.

The good-to-great leaders were able to strip away so much noise and clutter and just focus on the few things that would have the greatest impact. (87)

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Who…Then What

Continuing on my analysis of Good to Great by Jim Collins. Here are my favorite quotes from Chapter 3 - First Who…Then What.

…they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. (41)

Great vision without great people is irrelevant. (42) LOVE THIS QUOTE

You get the best people, you build them into the best managers in the industry, and you accept the fact that some of them will be recruited to become CEOs of other companies. (43)

I don’t know where we should take this company, but I do know that if I start with the right people, ask them the right questions, and engage them in vigorous debate, we will find a way to make this company great. (45)

If you have the right executives on the bus, they will do everything within their power to build a great company, no because of what they will “get” for it, but because they simply cannot imagine settling for anything less.

The right people will do the right things and deliver the best results they’re capable of, regardless of the incentive system.

…but to get the right people on the bus in the first place, and to keep them there. (50)

The Nucor system did not aim to turn lazy people into hard workers, but to create an environment where hardworking people would thrive and lazy workers would either jump or get thrown right off the bus. In one extreme case, workers chased a lazy teammate right out of the plant with an angle iron.

In determining “the right people,” the good-to-great companies place greater weight on character attributes…(51)

To be rigorous mean consistently applying exacting standards at all times and at all levels, especially in upper management. (52)

The only way to deliver to the people who are achieving is to not burden them with the people who are not achieving.

To let people languish in uncertainty for months or years, stealing precious time in their lives that they could use to move on to something else, when in the end they aren’t going to make it anyway – that would be ruthless. To deal with it right up front and let people get on with their lives – that is rigorous.

Rigor in a good-to-great company applies first at the top, focused on those who hold the largest burden of responsibility. (53)

Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people, as they inevitably find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people. (56)

But how do you know? Two key questions can help. First, if it were a hiring decision (rather than a “should this person get off the bus?” decision), would you hire the person again? Second, if the person came to tell you that he or she is leaving to pursue an exciting new opportunity, would you feel terribly disappointed or secretly relieved? (58)

The good-to-great companies made a habit of putting their best people on their best opportunities, not their biggest problems.

…building your opportunities is the only way to become great.

The right people want to be part of building something great…(59)

…each core member of the team transformed personal ambition into ambition for the company.

You need executives, on the one hand, who argue and debate – sometimes violently – in pursuit of the best answers, yet, on the other hand, who unify fully behind a decision, regardless of parochial interests.

All of debates were for the common good of the company, not your own interests. (60)

He was good at assembling the right people around him, and putting the right people in the right slots, that he just didn’t need to be there all hours of the day and night. That was Colman’s whole secret to success and balance. (61)

Members of the good-to-great teams tended to become and remain friends for life.

They enjoyed each other’s company and actually looked forward to meeting.

For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life.

The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with. (62)

Whether someone is the “right person” has more to do with character traits and innate capabilities than with specific knowledge, background, or skills. (64)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Level 5 Leadership

I recently finished reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. It was one of those "recommended" books in grad school that I never got around to reading until now. Actually, it was one of those that I started, got about 30 pages into, and put away. Anyways, I finally got around to reading it. Here are my favorite quotes from Chapter 2 - Level 5 Leadership.

…they were self-effacing individuals who displayed the fierce resolve to do whatever needed to be done to make the company great.

…but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves. (21)

…fully developed Level 5 leaders embody all five layers of the pyramid. (chart on page 20, 21)

…a dedication to making anything he touched the best it could possibly be – not just because of what he would get, but because he simply couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. (25)

…ambition first and foremost for the company and concern for its success rather than for one’s own riches and personal renown. (25-26)

…But he was not a Level 5 leader, and that is one key reason why Rubbermaid went from good to great for a brief shining moment, and then just as quickly, went from great to irrelevant. (27)

They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results. (28)

It is equally about ferocious resolve, an almost stoic determination to do whatever needs to be done to make the company great.

Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results. (30)

The evidence does not support the idea that you need an outside leader to come in and shake up the place to go from good to great. (31)

Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck). At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly. (35)

…those who have the potential to evolve to Level 5; the capability resides within them, perhaps buried or ignored…they begin to develop.

The problem is not, in my estimation, a death of potential Level 5 leaders. They exist all around us, if we just know what to look for. (37)

This chapter is about what Level 5s are; the rest of the book describes what they do. (38)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Good to Great Introduction

I recently finished reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. It was one of those "recommended" books in grad school that I never got around to reading until now. Actually, it was one of those that I started, got about 30 pages into, and put away. Anyways, I finally got around to reading it. Here are my favorite quotes from the introduction.

What did the good-to-great companies share in common that distinguished them from the comparison companies? (7)

Larger-than-life, celebrity leaders who ride in from outside are negatively correlated with taking a company from good to great.

…there is no evidence that the good-to-great companies spent more time on long-range strategic planning than the comparison companies. (10)

…[the good-to-great companies] focused equally on what not to do and what to stop doing.

…technology cannot cause a transformation.

…two big mediocrities joined together never make one great company.

Under the right conditions, the problems of commitment, alignment, motivation, and change largely melt away.

…[the good-to-great companies] produced a truly revolutionary leap in results, but not by a revolutionary process.

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice. (11)

Level 5 Leadership – Self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy – these leaders are a paradoxical blend of humility and professional will. (12-13)

First Who…Then What – People are not your most important asset. The right people are.

Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith) – the Stockdale Paradox: You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

A Culture of Discipline – When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great performance. (12)

Yes, the world is changing, and will continue to do so. But that does not mean we should stop the search for timeless principles.

It is ultimately about thing: the timeless principles of good to great. It’s about how you take a good organization and turn it into one that produces sustained great results, using whatever definition of results best applies to your organization. (15)
That good is the enemy of great is not just a business problem. It is a human problem.

If we have cracked the code of the question of good to great, we should have something of value to any type of organization.

The best students are those who never quite believe their professors.

One ought not to reject the data merely because one does not like what the data implies. (16)