BOOKCASE: How the mighty fall and why some companies never give in

• Jim Collins
• Random House
• RRP $49.99 (hardback)

The title notwithstanding, this is not Jim Collins as readers of his best selling books, Built to Last and Good to Great probably expect. How the Mighty Fall suggests an exposé of some magnitude. Instead, it is quick read which, as the author puts it, became “a diversion to engage” his pen while completing research for his next full-sized book.
At 123 pages, plus another 100 pages of appendices and index, it really is all over in very short time. But it is interesting and, as Collins readers would also expect, it is accessible, cleverly argued and relevant. It is not great piece of research however, because it draws on too few researched examples.
It is, of course, well timed and, because of its brevity and the topicality of the subject, is destined to sell well – even if it is tad over-priced. Better perhaps, to wait for the soft cover edition.
Whatever the circumstances that led Collins to peel off this piece while preparing for his bigger, co-researched book on “what it takes to endure and prevail when the world around you spins out of control”, the book is good read.
It resulted from Collins asking himself and, as he does, his team of researchers, questions like: How do the mighty fall? Can decline be detected early and avoided? How far can company fall before the path toward doom becomes inevitable and unshakable? How can companies reverse course?
He doesn’t exactly answer them, but he may well do so in his subsequent writing. What he reveals, however, is his finding that there are five stages to the process of decline and, depending on when or what action is taken, the process can be reversed, go into remission or carry on until the hearse arrives.
He describes the path to termination in five phases:
• hubris born of success
• undisciplined pursuit of more
• denial of risk and peril
• grasping for salvation
• capitulation to irrelevance or death.
The depth of research we expect of Collins is missing from this book, but it is valuable for the questions it poses. Questions every organisational leader should constantly ask of herself and her team. With this entree under my belt, I look forward to the main course which will, we are told, soon follow.

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