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  • Thilak Iyer

Is "Good to Great" relevant today?

This month marked the 19th anniversary of Jim Collins’ iconic book “Good to Great”. He distilled down from a long list of 1400-odd companies to just 11 that made the leap from Good to Great. These were Abbott, Gillette (now a P&G company), Kimberley-Clarke, Nucor, Walgreens, Circuit City, Fannie Mae, Kroger, Phillip Morris, Pitney Bowes and Wells Fargo. While an odd company such as Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 and couple of others such as Fannie Mae and Wells Fargo have seen ups and downs, good many of the organizations (and, hence, the principles) have stood the test of time.


We believe that the same principles can still be applied if we were to identify today's "Good to Great" companies. If he were to draw the list again today after about 19 years, the list will possibly look different. Some from the original list will not feature in the list and some new ones will get added as the dynamics of business environment are fast changing with the advent of technology coupled with new generation of consumers and their behavior.


CSK – A case in point:

Just to check if the principles can be applied more broadly, let us take an example that is somewhat outside of the corporate world and closer to home. What makes a good to great company can also be applied to a sports franchise. What made Chennai Super Kings (CSK#) from good to great for 12 years included many of the parameters that make “good to great” in the first place: Level 5 Leadership – Dhoni personified Level 5 Leadership from day-1 not only in CSK but when he led India so successfully. In fact, CSK is the only team that has backed the skipper from the start of the tournament with unwavering confidence. First who, then what – CSK first formed the team then found a role for the each of the member. Many of the years the team consisted of members who were not the best but worked together to make the best team possible. Rarely anyone had purple/orange caps. Confront the Brutal Facts - CSK maintained unwavering faith that they can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties. And at the same time, possibly had the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of the current reality. Culture of Discipline Hedgehog Concept - What lights your fire ("passion")? What could you be best in the world at ("best at")? What best drives your resource engine? If there was one thing that really separated CSK from other teams was their passion to excel. CSK was all of this and more that made them the most consistent performer in the IPL. What has changed this year that they have not just moved back to Good but have bottomed the table?

  • What has changed is really the Passion (from Hedgehog concept). The team did not display the passion that they had displayed all these years and the team did not simply really believe in themselves.

  • The second element seemed to be that they continued with the team that had made them successful all these years. Most had passed their “sell-by” date. The “first who” was right few editions earlier but the team never seemed to ask that question again in this edition to have the “right people in the bus”.

In conclusion, we believe that the core principles defined by Jim Collins in his famous book back in 2001 are still relevant and would stay true for years to come.

Notes:

# CSK is the most successful cricket franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL) winning the championship 3 times while making it to the finals record times. IPL is a cricketing tournament similar to English Premier League for football/soccer but with many more entertainment oriented elements added.

*The above concepts and some sentences are from the book "Good to Great".

A version of this article was posted as 2 posts on LinkedIn first by the same author.