From Good to Serious

Good to Great:why some companies make the leap… and others don’t
By: Jim Collins
Publisher: Random House Business Books
Price: $75.00
It has its critics but Built to Last: successful habits of visionary companies, is still one of the best management books on the market. Jim Collins, who co-authored it with Jerry I Porris, has now gone it alone, so to speak, and produced Good to Great, book that’s every bit as good as Built to Last, but unlikely to be as great. After all, Built to Last has sold million copies worldwide and still sits high on top selling business book sales charts.
Good to Great is, in many respects, even more useful and compelling than Built to Last – particularly when it comes to identifying the personal leadership qualities the researchers identified as important to the pro-cess of turning good into great.
Collins and his team spent five years in pursuit of an answer to the question – can good company become great and, if so, how? The book’s conclusion, perhaps not surprisingly, is that “almost any organisation can substantially improve its stature and performance, perhaps even become great, if it conscientiously applies the framework of ideas we’ve uncovered”. He would say that wouldn’t he?
Snide observation aside, among the more “provocative” and revealing findings is Collins’ description of what he calls Level 5 Leadership. Level 5 leaders “channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.” Level 5 refers to the highest level in hierarchy of executive capabilities that Collins and his team identified in their research.
There is, of course, great deal more than leadership observation in this book. It’s pricey but Jim Collins has written another management classic here. BusinessWeek called it “just as astute and accessible as [Built to Last]”. It’s difficult to disagree.

Jack
By: Jack Welch with John Byrne
Publisher: Headline
Price: $54.95
An autobiography that begins with the confession that: “I hate having to use the first person. Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished with other people. Yet when you write book like this, you’re forced to use the narrative ‘I’ when it’s really ‘we’ that counts”, rings tad untrue.
We were determined to remain dispassionate, however. So we read on. We are glad we did because it’s an ok book though not my kind of biography. Fans of Jack the rebel, the self-made man, the leader and mmmmmm, “the business genius” will probably enjoy the story of General Electric and its charismatic CEO. I find autobiographies of rather more multi-dimensional people more compelling.
Leadership of an enterprise like GE is difficult to relate to operating in the confines and constrictions of New Zealand enterprise, except perhaps for the few that move on to better things in global management. Still, it provides valuable insights into at least one great corporation and its leader’s way of thinking, prioritising and strategising for global success.
How Jack found inspiration for his great new idea – the “boundaryless organisation” – while on his honeymoon with his second wife is also revealing. But if you keep focused on the concept rather than the process by which the “idea that would obsess me for the next decade” arrived, there are anecdotes aplenty in this book. This is one man’s story of the American dream and simultaneously story of prolific and successful American doer. We enjoyed it – sort of.

Toolbox of Really Useful Business Ideas
By: Dr Ian Brooks
Publisher: New Holland
Price: $39.95
Ian Brooks has written another no-nonsense business book to add to steadily growing portfolio of how-to literature. After holiday skim through Toolbox of Ideas should be parked by the desk for quick reference and instant inspiration. It’s book to dip into regularly and has been compiled and designed to facilitate the process.

The Agenda: what every business must do to dominate the decade
By: Michael Hammer
Publisher: Random House Business Books
Price: $69.95
Hammer is not, as far as I know, an engineer. His list of previous titles might suggest otherwise. They include: Reengineering the Corporation; The Reengineering Revolution and Beyond Reengineering. If you haven’t already read one of these, you will understand where this chappie is coming from.
“Suddenly business is not so easy anymore,” says Hammer. It’s time to get serious about business again is the theme. The frivolous ’90s are over. Tough times are normal; the internet hasn’t changed everything, success is not easy and the entrepreneur is not the complete answer.
This book concentrates on “the nuts and bolts” of an enterprise, the mechanics of business that determine how well company performs. It offers “serious ideas for serious people” – “concrete guidelines that show managers how to rethink every aspect of business and reshape it for the imperatives of the customer economy”.

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