Guru Jim Collins definition of greatness and the link with your own organisation

Are you lucky enough to work in a great company? Not sure?

We are often told that there are very few great companies around. The evidence is often based on the small numbers of organisations who achieve ‘best or great’ status in any of the awards programmes currently running in the UK.

Perhaps there are thousands more out there that we are not aware of. I’m not so sure after reading one of the latest articles from Guru Jim Collins.

His comments have made me sit up and consider seriously the term ‘greatness’ and how it’s achieved.

The meaning of greatness

Greatness is difficult to define. It means different things to different people including the people responsible for leading your organisation.

Jim Collins, author of ‘Good to great’ defines ‘greatness’ in three ways.

  1. Greatness is linked to superior performance. This could mean sales or profitability. Jim equates it to ‘return on capital invested’ and it should be directly related to other companies in your sector.
  2. Greatness is linked to a term he uses - ‘distinctive impact’. If your company disappeared tomorrow, would it leave a gaping hole that couldn’t be filled by another organisation in the marketplace?
  3. Greatness is linked to endurance. Regardless of the life cycle of your products, founder or leaders, would your business continue to operate and have the same impact as before?

I find myself constantly thinking about the three factors – superior performance, impact and endurance – and how they apply to my own business and of course my clients.

Many of my clients over the years have considered their business to be great but when matched to Jim Collins criteria, they clearly are not.

Jim believes that ‘greatness’ is all about outputs rather than inputs. The three factors highlighted above are outputs. He also states that ‘culture’ does not define greatness – it is merely an input which may or may not contribute to greatness.

I don’t agree with his thoughts regarding culture, as every output in any business occurs as a result of a direct or indirect input. Organisational culture – often termed ‘the way we do things around here’ – is a major contributor to performance, impact and endurance.

I have had the privilege of working with many superior performing, impactful and enduring organisations and take it from me their culture always played a significant part in their success on the business growth journey.

A great company is a special place to work in.

From the moment you walk through the front door of a great company, you realise very quickly you have entered a different world – a world with a workplace experience unlike anywhere else.

To many people experiencing it for the first time, it can feel quite unreal, almost too good to be true. Signs of greatness are often self evident in a great company.

Highlighted below are fifteen signs – none of which are in any particular order – that indicate that your company may have the raw potential to be considered a great company.

  1.  Great companies always replace a departing employee with a much better quality individual
  2. They experience staff attrition levels below the average for their industry or market sector
  3. There employees are likely to recommend them as an employer to others
  4. Absenteeism, sickness and Monday ‘hangovers’ are virtually non existent
  5. High levels of pride exists throughout the organisation
  6. High levels of pride exist outside the organisation e.g. the Dog and Duck
  7. They possess a track-record of promoting employees from within
  8. There culture is highly visible on a company walkabout
  9. Employees have access to, and are comfortable in the presence of the ‘leader at the top’ of the organisation
  10. A waiting list of applicants wishing to join the company exists
  11. The core values which contribute to their greatness is understood by everyone in the company
  12. Employees actively look for ways in which they can help improve the performance of the company
  13. Everyone connected with the organisation understands the personal contribution expected of them in the workplace
  14. Personal goals and objectives are ambitious, stretching and fair
  15. Cultural Architects – leaders without authority – influence and inspire others to perform to their potential.

Of course there are many more, but these fifteen signs if demonstrated consistently over time will support the creation of an enduring, impactful and superior performing organisation.

The benefits of being considered great are considerable

Great companies tend to exude confidence in their locality. Word spreads and positive press, awards and good news follows quickly

They are often recognised as employers of choice – are targeted by the very best talent – and everyone including head-hunters, placement agencies, graduates, investors and suppliers are aware of their greatness.

Great companies are more often or not growing companies and everyone looking for a job or career wishes to be part of a growing cy.

It is often said that ‘success breeds success’. The same can be said about greatness.

Greatness breeds greatness – all that is required, is to understand its meaning and put in place the behaviours and activities necessary to achieve it.

This requires strong leadership. Recognising the signs already in place in your organisation is a good starting point.

Measuring your organisation against Jim Collins definition is a great aspiration end goal.

Best wishes on your business growth journey, wherever it may take you.

John Stein – Founder of the winning (formula)®


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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 at 11:06 am and is filed under Business Strategy, Culture and Values, Leadership Development, The Business Growth Journey. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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