I spend a lot of time reading, and often find valuable insight and information that I like to share with leaders within our organization. Jim Collins is one author whom I feel provides thoughtful review and insight on business best practices that are applicable to many audiences.
Last year, I took the time to read How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. In it, Collins suggests that all organizations are vulnerable to decline, but “great companies can stumble, badly, and recover.” Below are key takeaways that any business leader should keep in mind -- even though it may seem like business and health are two different categories, it's not the case. All leaders should constantly look out for the "wellness" or their organization.
First, Collins says to consider if the right people are in the right roles, and then work to develop a culture of discipline. This type of culture begins when people understand what, exactly, they are responsible for – which is different than what their job title might say – and ends with a shared vision, set of values or overarching purpose. All of these elements work together, and are critical to longevity and success; however, Collins discovered that successful organizations continue to be susceptible to decline, and will fall and fail without proper attention or preparation.
Next, ask the following questions of your organization:
What do we do ten times better than anyone else?
Successful organizations focus on this relentlessly, without distraction.
What is on our “list”?
Your “list” includes the durable, specific services that you provide which produce replicable results over time. For example, how Southwest Airlines focuses on “low cost.”
What’s our 20-mile march?
Focus on a concrete outcome based on steady performance throughout the years. These goals need to be measurable and acknowledge constraints.
How do you know when to change your “list”?
Successful companies do not change strategy, focus, purpose and value very much over time. Collins notes two big myths related to change: that we must change as much on the inside as we do on the outside, and that winners change all the time – but he claims neither are true. Instead, he offers three levels of change to keep in mind: buzz about change with no substance, questionable change that may subvert something on your list) and actual change that does affect your list.
Do you understand why you were successful in the first place?
Failure results when you don’t.
Are you innovative?
Small tests of change lead to success that can be replicated for scale. Collins warns that failure happens when you don’t test enough and when you don’t learn from previous efforts.
I encourage all business leaders to add How the Mighty Fall to their reading list this year, and keep it on their bookshelf as a point of reference. I know I will.