Why I liked Built to Last more than Good to Great

Jim Collins is great at writing books for the business community that the Christian leaders love to read.

Good to Great

His second, more widely known book is ‘Good to Great’. It’s got some helpful stuff in there about focussing on what you’re best at, aiming on what results you’re aiming for, getting the right people onto the team as the first thing to focus on. He summarises his book as a call to ‘disciplined thought and disciplined action’. This is certainly a thing we need to pursue as faithful servants of the gospel.

Good to Great also has a supplement for not-for-profits, which is very helpful at thinking through how you can take on board its advice when your primary outcome is not profit.

But I didn’t totally love the book. And some things really annoyed me: He tried to come up with catchy names for things, and they were almost always annoying and hard to remember: ‘hedgehog concept’ (!?), ‘Level 5 Leader’, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.

Also the vision of the book was somehow not especially inspiring to me: I can’t quite put my finger on why, but making a transition from good to great didn’t resonate with me as a compelling vision. Something felt amiss about it, necessarily subjective or something?

But then perhaps it was just not an ‘Aha’ book for me, perhaps it just didn’t speak to where I am ‘at’ right now.

Built to Last

The guy I borrow the book off also lent me Collins’ first book: ‘Built to Last’. And this book I found much more exciting, inspiring and practically helpful.

I liked that way it was focussed on a much longer time scale: how to build something that endures through multiple generations, multiple transitions of senior leadership. This was a much more exciting goal than just having a burst of ‘greatness’ for a season. It seemed that it gelled more easily the vision and priorities of Christian ministry in that way.

Here are the major bits of advice in Built to Last:

  1. Clock building not time-telling (a cheesy metaphor like his later, ‘Hedgehog Concept’ thing): don’t just do work well, but architect an organisation that will continue to do this work well beyond your lifetime. This is a very powerful insight I think. Collins even observed that often these long-term organisations experience slow growth in their early years/decades - but ended up having an enduring, long-term impact.

  2. More than profits: don’t just pursue profits, but aim to be faithful to your mission, vision and values.

  3. Both preserve your core ideology AND stimulate progress.

  4. Big Hairy Audacious Goals: set tangible, inspiring goals to motivate work, innovation and sacrifice. Make sure you set a new goal when you are close to meeting your existing goals.

  5. Cult-Like Cultures: have a very intense and specific culture in the way you do things, such that if people fit they will love it and thrive, but if they don’t fit they won’t like it.

  6. Try a lot of stuff and keep what works.

  7. Home-grown management: and investing a lot in the developing of your people.

  8. Good enough never is.

    via Blog - Christian Reflections http://genevapush.com/blogs/xian_reflections/why-i-liked-built-to-last-more-than-good-to-great (NB: to comment go to thegenevapush.com/xian_reflections)