For an academic who does mammoth research projects and then writes about them, Jim is a very energetic character. One of his books is based on 100 years of corporate history “Built to Last”, the other on 30 years of history “From Good to Great”. Having read both I wondered what the man was going to add in person. He delivered an unbelievable, unshakable conviction of what causes organisations to prosper. And he repeated the points several times? he did not want us to miss it.
Good is the enemy of Great. Greatness is not a function of circumstance it is made up of two things. Choice and Discipline.
All businesses face difficult circumstances. These are what shape us. It is a culture of discipline that causes the difference. There is no such thing as an easy industry.
Jim reiterated his thoughts on getting the right people on the bus first before you work out where the bus is going.
He noted the one common trait between the great business leaders was humility They had ambition for the cause, that is for the company vision rather than for themselves personally. And no matter the adversity or challenges they faced they always stuck by their values.
Discipline in thought and discipline in action ? consistently, every day, always.
He asked us to consider not just what we do, but what we choose not to do. ‘The stop doing list’? Focus. What do we have the discipline not to do?
Jim was asked what is the signature of mediocrity. Chronic Inconsistencies They change all the time, innovate without follow through, keep reorganising. They change for change’s sake.
Great leaders are continuity agents, holding tight to their core values. These will not be compromised? ever. A BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is fifteen or twenty years out and it is a consistent focus.
Be most proud of what comes next. What you are yet to discover, create, produce.
Jim was asked about who to attract to an organisation. Was his response simple? the moment you have to manage someone’s actions in a day is the moment you know you have made a wrong hire. Do they understand that it is not a job that they have, but they have a responsibility? And every time they simply must do what they say they are going to do. These are the people you want.
Good people know the difference between windows and mirrors. Windows are to see out? to acknowledge those you have contributed to success. Mirrors are for showing who is responsible. Is the leader always responsible? there is no blame game.
Do people joining your organisation have an incredible passion for the business and its cause? He posed. This is very hard to find out in an interview. Jim suggested that people do pre-work so you can really see where their passions lie.
Jim offered us so much more. One person asked how to create a vision. He said that all the tools are free on his website. Jim Collins resources
I too got to ask a question. I wanted to know, given that his work is all about history, what relevance does it have in a world that is changing and growing so rapidly. Was it relevant to organisations that come from nothing into billion dollar entities in less than a decade? He answered the definition of greatness is the same. It is all about discipline. And he let me know that that is the subject of his current research, which will be his next book.
Another great session at N-PODS