Sunday, June 15, 2008

National Performing Arts Convention: Jim Collins (Going from Good to Great)


Notes from Jim Collins' session "From Good to Great and the Social Sector." Best-selling author Jim Collins discusses his groundbreaking theory on what makes the difference between a "good" organization and a "great" one, and how to achieve superior performance in the social sector.


  • We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, but we are freed by choice and our decisions.

  • The best performing stock in the history of traded stocks is Southwest Airlines, and there isn’t an industry tougher than the airline industry. Talk about a tough circumstance, and they seemed to outperform everyone.

  • It is the wrong ideas to say that the primary path of success for arts organizations is to become more like businesses. Most businesses are average, so why would you want to strive to be average? The critical questions should be what causes an organization or a business to go from good to great, instead of modeling your organization’s behaviors after a for-profit business.

  • Greatness is a cumulative process—most major successes are built over substantial periods of time. In their studies, most major successes were twenty years in the making and on average, it took seven years of great work before a company experienced a “breakthrough.” Consider that for thirteen years Starbucks had five stores, now it seems like they are opening five stores everyday.

  • The most common cause of substantial decline was found in organizations which made large, undisciplined growth changes. They tried to do too much, too quick and were not prepared.

  • Great companies in turbulent times don’t believe that most of their successes or failures lie beyond their control. They believe that their destiny is in their control, and will not settle for excuses.

  • Who comes before what. In order to change an average performing organization, you don’t necessarily need an inspirational or motivating leader, the organization needs a leader that seeks to get the right people on the bus, and in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, After that is accomplished, then they settle on a collective visions. The ultimate hedge against an uncertain world is who you have with you. Invest in people first, before you invest in a plan.

  • #1 Responsibility of a Leader: Make sure that key leadership roles are filled by the best people who are committed and capable of success.

  • Great leaders must understand that sometimes the work is too important and critical to be nice. If you know that someone or something isn’t working, make an adjustment as soon as possible.

  • In their research, they found that the one key difference between good leaders and great leaders was humility.

  • Many people in an organization don’t have enough power to push through a good idea on their own, but there are numerous people in an organization that have enough power to stall or stop a good idea. Great leaders do not seek consensus decisions, but the right decisions. Leaders need to architect an environment to get enough people behind a good idea to send it forward. (He noted that great decisions usually were never made by consensus).

  • Non-profit organizations needs to put metrics in place to measure success. In the for-profit world, this isn’t an issue because success is measured on return on invested capital. However, non-profits aren’t measured in the same way. You should know how to tell if your organization is doing well or not. The organization needs to show enough results so it is apparent that the organization is successful, because people (primarily donors) want to support winners.

  • Every great organization is clear on who they are and what they do. They also know when they should say no to something that is beyond their scope no matter how “tempting” the proposition is.

  • Great companies manage themselves in good times like they were currently in turbulent times. You need to be disciplined enough to build reserves during prosperous times.

  • An organization could approach a significant change by using all of its gun powder to launch a large canon ball at its target. This usually results in finding that you aim is 30 degrees off, you haven’t hit your target and have no more gunpowder to fire another canon ball. What you should do is use a small amount of gunpowder to fire a small bullet at your target. When you see that you are 30 degrees off, make the adjustment and you will have enough gunpowder to fire another shot. Hopefully you will find that your aim is off by a smaller degree, maybe 15 degrees. Make an adjustment, reload, aim again, and repeat until you hit the target. Once you hit the target, then get out the big canon ball. You should advance strategically so that you never miss big.

2 comments:

Doug Fox said...

Chad, thanks for overview of Jim Collins' session. Are you going to be writing about town hall sessions?

I wrote a post about NPAC Internet strategy - I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Chad M. Bauman said...

Doug--I don't think I will cover the town hall sessions much on this blog because they don't focus on marketing.