Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

Jim Collins – Good to Great

Posted by Orrin Woodward on January 24, 2008

I found a Q&A session with Jim Collins in Fortune Magazine.  Jim Collins is the author of Good to Great which is one of my favorite all time leadership books.  I believe the Team leaders display many of the Good to Great principles.  One question describes the importance of building the right team before building the right business.  The more I read about the future of business the more excited I am to be involved with the Team leadership!  Here is the article’s questions.  God Bless,
Orrin Woodward

If you were to offer advice to a beginning entrepreneur, what would it be? –Francisco Romero, Albuquerque

First, don’t obsess on finding the “great idea.” In fact, our research shows a somewhat negative correlation between
pioneering a great idea and building a great company. Many of the greatest
started with either no great idea or even failed ideas.

Sony (Charts) started with a failed rice cooker. Marriott (Charts) started as a single root beer stand. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard’s great idea was simply to work together – two best friends who trusted each other – while their first four products failed to get the company out of the garage.

They followed the “first who” approach to entrepreneurship: First figure out your partners, then figure out what ideas to pursue. The most important thing isn’t the market you target, the product you develop or the financing, but the founding team.

Starting a company is like scaling an unclimbed face – you don’t know what the mountain will throw at you, so you must pick the right partners, who share your values, on whom you can depend, and who can adapt.

“Good to Great” looked at companies with long track records. How do the ideas in the book apply to disruptive startup companies, like YouTube or Google (Charts)? –George Kim, Washington, D.C.

My colleague Morten Hansen and I are nearing completion of six years of research studying companies that went from startup to greatness in environments characterized by turbulent disruption. We’ve deliberately selected entrepreneurial companies in the most severely disruptive industries, using the following analogy: If you wake up in the security of base camp and a storm moves in, you’ll probably be fine. But if you find yourself at 27,000 feet on the side of Mount Everest, where the storms are faster moving and unpredictable, a storm just might kill you. Most leaders today feel they are moving higher on the mountain, whether in Google’s world or traditional industries, and we want to know, Why do some prevail from vulnerability to greatness in the face of turbulent disruption, while others don’t?

Most founders fail to become effective managers after the companies they started become too large for them to control. However, a few, such as Bill Gates, managed to grow into top-tier CEOs. What are the distinguishing factors between the transformed entrepreneurs and others? –Haimu Sun, Evanston,

It’s simply a myth that entrepreneurs can’t evolve into company builders. Our research shows quite the opposite: In great companies the entrepreneurs generally grow as the company grows.

Here is a short list of those who evolved into company builders: Henry Ford, Sam Walton, Hewlett and Packard, J.W. Marriott, Sony’s Akio Morita, Walt Disney, Intel’s Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher, and of course Gates and Phil Knight. They made the shift from time telling to clock building – to seeing their primary creation as the company itself: what it stands for, its culture and how it operates.

If forced to choose just one, what do you feel is the most important quality in a successful business leader? –John Mierzwa, Las Vegas

Willful humility. The best CEOs in our research display tremendous ambition for their company combined with the stoic will to do whatever it takes, no matter how brutal (within the bounds of the company’s core values), to make the company great. Yet at the same time they display a remarkable humility about themselves, ascribing much of their own success to luck, discipline and preparation rather than personal genius. 

Do you find that the leaders of great companies are less likely to be paid excessively, but more consistently with the others in their organization? –Bill Maltarich, Bonita Springs, Fla. 

Our research found no correlation between executive compensation and shareholder returns. Excessive executive pay tends to lead to one thing: even more excessive pay, not increased shareholder value.

What is the subject of your next book, and when is it due out? –Michael Sharrow, San Antonio 

I haven’t yet decided on my next book. I’ve got the two big research questions in late stages: “great to good,” which I’m writing up now, and the turbulent-disruption research. One of those might become a book, but my first focus is to make sure we successfully answer the questions we set out to answer.


Jeff Sonnenfeld, founder of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute and professor at Yale University School of Management

The quest for greatness that you’ve studied fits well in America’s tradition of
success-absorbed self-improvement wisdom ranging from Benjamin Franklin to
Stephen Covey. Do you think we should also focus on the wisdom from failure?

Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate the question, because it gives me a chance to correct a common misinterpretation of our work. Our research is not based on studying success. We study the contrast between highly successful and less successful outcomes. We put as much weight on those that failed to achieve (or sustain) great results as on those that did, asking the question “What principles explain the difference between the successes and the failures?”

We’ll be releasing the results of a new piece of research that examines the inverse of “good to great” – namely, “great to good”: Why do some great companies fall and not others?

2 Responses to “Jim Collins – Good to Great”

  1. […] to find a growth based culture.  Leaders do make the difference.  To paraphrase Jim Collins, “Get the right people on the bus—get them in the right seats—then determine what the […]

  2. […] Character is my number one criteria to evaluate before I agree to be in business with anyone.  Jim Collins stated, “Get the right people on the bus, then the right people will build the right […]

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