In Jim Collins’ newest stroke of literary genius, Great by Choice, he and his co-author Morten T. Hansen present the results of a research project that identified the characteristics that help businesses succeed in and all economic conditions. The result is a fascinating look at leadership styles and insightful conclusions that really can be applied to your business.
My favorite company analysis from in the book is on Southwest Airlines. Collins calls out that when Southwest started up, they actually copied the strategy of another company—Pacific Southwest Airlines (we come to learn that radical innovation is not one of the characteristics of ultra-successful companies). PSA shared their strategy with Southwest, down to every step of the operations manual because they didn’t necessarily compete in regional niches. Southwest stuck to the defined business strategy and was so fanatical about staying on that course they actually grew beyond it. PSA didn’t have the same discipline and is no longer flying the friendly skies.
Southwest Airlines, and other companies like Progressive Insurance, Microsoft and Stryker, are identified as “10X companies” or “10Xers” for their ability to produce results 10-times that of their competition. The book identifies the common behaviors in these 10x companies—a big surprise is that ‘innovation’ isn’t one of them. The three behaviors that I find most compelling are:
1. Disciplined. These companies work consistently towards defined performance standards and remain consistent in their messaging over time.
2. Productively paranoid. The 10Xers stayed humble and on their toes by always fearing the next big thing that would make them obsolete.
3.Empirically creative. These companies slowed down before they sped up to make sure there was a sound basis to develop a new idea, concept or decision. In other words, they did the homework before they made a move.
One of the real-world takeaways from this book is that fast decisions and fast actions are good ways to get killed. There are times when it is mission critical to go fast, but most of the time you have much more time to think things through, and many leaders don’t.
Jim Collins has supplied the business world with a great many books, most of them I consider to be valuable help with business leadership development. I have been pouring over this latest book and have found it to be highly applicable to my clients—in fact I already have a few clients reading it! Can you tell I am a raving fan?
Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential. To learn more about how an executive coach, management consultant, leadership training, or business coach can help your team, please visit his website at activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.