Great by Choice (Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen)

Unknown-6This book was written ten years after Good to Great and studied how some companies thrive in the ever-changing environment while others do not. Each chapter employed storytelling with vibrant examples to imprint the learning. This book proves that greatness is a matter of choice and discipline that can be attained through hard work, preparation and diligence.  The chapters included:

  1. Thriving in uncertainty – This chapter begins with the quote “we cannot predict the future.  But we can create it” (p1). The authors share that the successful companies could not predict the future but did observe what was working building on this success in a disciplined manner to thrive.
  2. 10Xers – Using examples of the explorers, Roald Amundsen (who successfully reached the South Pole) and Robert Falcon Scott (who died trying) this chapter describes what needs to be done to reach the success of being 10 times better than comparators. It describes Amundson’s precise training (including apprenticing with Eskimos) so that he could was prepared with contingency plans for every conceivable sitation that could happen on his trek. This example describes the fanatic, unrelenting discipline, consistency of action and focus to reach goals without letting external pressure change the course. Considering empirical evidence helped make good decisions leading to preparation, consistency and vigilance.
  3. 20 Mile March – This chapter discussed the importance of a ‘slow and steady’ approach , never growing too much, too quickly and maintaining consistency in performance over time. This builds confidence, reduces likelihood of catastrophe and helps to exert self-control in an environment that can’t be controlled. As progress is measured, there is time to course correct and make improvements along the way.  It is reminiscent of the children’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.
  4. Fire Bullets, Not Cannonballs – While considering innovation, it is important to test ideas in an orderly fashion. Once evaluation takes place, decisions can be made with confidence to fire cannonballs towards success. Bullets need to be low cost, low risk and low distraction. It is important to view “mistakes as expensive tuition; better get something out of it, learn everything you can, apply the learning, and then don’t repeat” (p87).
  5. Leading Above the Deathline – This type of preparation is ensuring that important decisions are made ahead of time, conditions will change and having proactive decisions help survival. This can include cash reserves, hypervigilence, building buffers and preparation. 10X companies tended to let events unfold over time and then react with clarity. The authors talk about zooming out, sensing the change in condition and assessing before zooming in and executing focus in planning and objectives.
  6. SMaC – This is described as a recipe to be Specific, Metholodical, and Consistent including things to do and things NOT to do. It helps keep a company on track and focused, “forcing order amidst chaos” (p131). This adherence to goals creates focus even as the recipe may be evolved at times.
  7. Return on Luck – This chapter examined the impact of luck on success. It determined that it is really the reaction to luck or to bad luck, which makes the impact on success. Experience, diligence and preparation distinguish greatness. Seizing the luck, working hard and driving towards success through the 20 Mile March, firing bullets and building that culture of discipline leads to success. “10Xers use difficulty as a catalyst to deepen purpose, recommit to values, increase discipline, respond with creativity, and heighten productive paranoia. Resilience, not luck, is the signature of greatness” (p169). The essence of luck is to recognize it, know when to let luck disrupt plans, be prepared to withstand bad luck and creating a positive return on luck.

While I did not enjoy this book as much as Good to Great, it does provide some excellent examples of a how to be “great”. The examples of the explorers, the climbers and Bill Gates are inspiring and show how preparation, diligence and hard work make all the difference! This book is terrific for individuals, companies, athletes and anyone interested in “greatness”

Greatness is not primarly a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline” (p.182)


This entry was posted in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s