This week’s book review is really a two-for-one. Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t was a follow-up to an earlier work called Built to Last. In part, Good to Great is the focus of this review, but really, of all the books in this series, the most powerful may be Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great.
Collins wrote the Social Sectors Monograph after many nonprofits asked how he would apply the concepts of Good to Greatto Social Sector organizations where shareholder profit is not available as a metric.
His answer to that question is page-for-page one of the most richly packed 35 pages you’ll ever read. I recommend the monograph for any manager or leader, whether engaged in nonprofit or for-profit business.
In Good to Great and the Social Sectoryou will find a distillation of Collins research of thousands of organizations and his team’s conclusions about the critical factors that help organizations make the transitions from “good” to enduring quality and impact.
One of the most critical points Collins makes in this monograph is that a vital key to lasting organizational impact is discipline – and that discipline is not an automatic characteristic of for-profits or nonprofits.
Rather, discipline is a characteristic of great organizations – and is too often lacking from businesses of any stripe.
He goes on to suggest that social sector organizations can assemble a core set of metrics to which they consistently hold themselves accountable. I once heard Collins express the idea like this: You want to assemble a body of evidence such that a jury would have to find you guilty of being effective.
In my opinion, this principle works as well in for-profits as nonprofits. Impact is more than profit.
Good to Great (and the Social Sector)emphasizes a combination of leadership and management principles found in enduringly great organizations. These businesses feature leaders with a “paradoxical combination of humility and professional will”.
The organizations’ management is very clear and stays focused on what drives their economic engine – the thing they are able to do better than anyone else in their sphere, yet they change quickly and firmly when innovation is required.
Leaders and managers work together to create a culture of excellence, discipline, results, and impact through a series of small wins which build into momentum with a life of its own.
There is something for nearly every reader in Good to Great and the Social Sector. The section of leadership and results-oriented accountability alone is worth the price of this very small book for any growing leader and manager.
David M. Dye
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David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.