Collins’ book (2001) is one of the leading books in the business industry as far as management is concerned. It depicts how companies and organizations strive to evolve from the state of being good to great enterprises. In addition, it shows how organizations and companies can fail to embrace the evolution and remain in the same state much less become worse. Collins and his team interviewed 1,435 companies, which are listed in the Fortune 500. After assessing these organizations, they used data obtained from the research to integrate and come up with seven factors that would best explain the difference between the great and the good evolution. These factors include the culture of discipline, the definition of good, level 5 leadership within a disseminated power formation, as well as getting the right people into the bus. Other factors include the company’s ability to face the brutal facts, the hedgehog concept, and the company’s ability to build momentum through brand building. This review paper will discuss the factors that make some companies reap and others fail according to Collin’s concept.
Philosophical Analysis of the Text
The traditional aspect of conducting any social research is usually founded on the assumptions as well as theories intended to seek truth and knowledge while on the other hand communicating important information that can be employed in real life to aid in decision-making. A keen analysis of the text written by James Collins, however, exhibits something that goes beyond basic research, as any reader would feel that he/she has been introduced into the work of a motivational speaker rather than a researcher that was merely pursuing truth or knowledge. This indicates that Collins did not conduct the research to obtain any kind of knowledge but to fulfill a certain type of curiosity (Collins, 2001). The text begins by outlining a “How to” process to make a critical analysis of organizational performance, which helps to determine how a company can transit from the state of being good to great. The philosophical approach underlying his research and methodology is thus founded on external realities that describe the transformation of institutions from the state of being good, or what Collins referred to as status-quo mediocre to the state of being great, or what he termed as the state of excellence, the elite and heads of social hierarchy. His philosophical approach thus appeared to rely on external realities that seek to establish and certify a business enterprise that has already obtained a status of greatness (Collins, 2001).
With the first chapter of the text beginning by introducing the team of researchers, methodology, and findings of the research, it exhibits a philosophical assumption that “Good is the rival of Greatness” as most individuals operating in the contemporary corporate environment tend to settle for good as pertains to their individual lives, education environments, government institutions, and business enterprises. He used a team of 21 study researchers to conduct a five-year project through which he investigated the various complexities that can transition average business enterprises to become truly great. The study methodology adopted by this team included identification of specific companies that have proven to have a transitioned state of performance through reaping “good to great” results (Collins, 2001). With these companies, particularly including those that we’re able to sustain the great results for approximately fifteen years, their great results were operationally described as cumulative returns that were three times higher than the average market performance. The study methodology further included eleven one-on-one contrasts of Good-to-Great Companies as well as six unsustained contrasts between the companies. The unsustained comparisons portrayed results that exhibited short-term realization of great results but did not exhibit sustainability. The researchers however established ways to unlock the attainability of great results. Collins established basic philosophical assumptions underlying the positive transformation from good to great, which he termed as disciplined individuals, disciplined thoughts, and disciplined activities. He compared the process with relentless efforts that enable to push a giant flywheel in a particular direction, and each turn attributes to more momentum that eventually leads to a breakthrough (Collins, 2001).
The research further established a certain form of a hierarchy of leadership that prevailed in businesses. While he demarcated this hierarchy into five levels, he established a philosophical assumption that leaders occupying the fifth level directed their egoistic needs away from their personal needs to meet the needs of the larger company through meeting its larger goal. He termed these leaders as holding the overall characteristics of levels one to four leaders, which constitute the duality of individual humility and corporate will. These leaders thus direct their egoistic desires towards the realization of organizational rather than personal goals to contribute to the development of the great organization (Collins, 2001).
The findings of the research further exhibit a certain philosophical assumption that successful companies ought to address certain brutal facts that may be standing on their way to greatness. From these findings, Collins established the fact that organizations must address the brutal facts standing in their way to make positive advancements into the future. This can be obtained through effective decision-making, which reflects a high degree of accuracy in analyzing various circumstances relating to business (Collins, 2001).
There is sufficient evidence that Collins’ philosophical assumptions exhibit a high degree of biasness that is apparent in the research and methodology. This biasness is exhibited in the very premise of the study as the researchers incline their choice for a study population towards companies that portrayed acceptable results of transitioning from the state of being good to the state of being great. Although the struggles exhibited by small companies a high degree of biasness relating to the practical applicability of the study findings, it is obvious that the philosophical assumptions made are of great significance in real life as they provide business enterprises with effective strategies that can allow for quality improvement in organizational performance. Collins’ assumption that good is a core enemy to greatness is important as business enterprises are warned about the dangers that might result if they relax their efforts after making a relatively small improvement in their performance rather than seeking to maximize their potential. Collins’ assumptions on how level 5 leaders focus their egoistic desires away from themselves are equally significant as they enable business enterprises to realize the need to put the needs of the larger organization before their own needs to ensure the success of their business enterprises (Collins, 2001). This enhances the applicability of the study findings to contemporary business enterprises. Collins further exhibits this applicability by explaining that the way the companies involved in the study are is not the only way that other companies have to be to become great. This indicated the fact that there are various companies that exhibit such kinds of great but do not employ the principles employed by these companies. This can enable companies pursuing to realize a state of greatness do not have to adapt the stated pattern but they need to have a history of an acceptable pattern that should not be broken at any one point (Collins, 2001).
The assumptions made by Collins exhibit a close link with other readings particularly those established by Bernstein and Kuhn. Bernstein’s reading; Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis exhibit the idea of transcendental subjectivity, which showed that truth, cannot be obtained because it is subjective (Bernstein, 1983). Similarly, not all companies operating in the contemporary business environment since success is subjective in that each company has its perceived level of greatness can attain Collins’s assumptions of greatness. The reading further exhibited a state of historical transition that sustains a significant relationship between subjectivity and objectivity. Kuhn’s reading is equally related to Collins’ reading as it seeks to discover facts about the natural world. Just as Collins presents scientific discovery to create a platform through which activities in the corporate world can be understood, Kuhn provides a scientific paradigm through which discovery of the natural world can be attained (Kuhn, 2012). While the various readings seek to establish a common structure upon which the natural world can be understood, it is obvious that adherence to the poststructuralist approach can help to respond to Collins’ research. This is because the approach maintains that the human culture can be understood through developing a structure that is distinct from the concrete reality prevailing within the external environment. This can thus help to understand how Collins established a structure to help understand how a successful company ought to operate through moving from the state of being good to being great.
There is sufficient evidence that Collins has made significant philosophical assumptions that can help us to understand how corporate units operating in the modern-day business environment should adopt so as to sustain a high level of performance. Collins’ assumptions indicated that good is a rival to greatness as companies may tend to relax their efforts after making relatively low-level progress. His assumptions can help us to understand that companies seeking to succeed should pursue to maximize their potential by seeking constant progress. He further assumes that successful leaders do not put their egoistic desires before those of the larger organization, which can help us to understand how organizational success can be achieved when organizational objectives are given priority.
Bernstein, R. (1983). Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap and Others Don’t. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
Kuhn, T. S. (2012). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.