Category Archives: Reading Assignments

Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins

Classification:  Adult Non-fiction

Genre: Business

Subjects: Social entrepreneurs, business models, leadership, management

 “Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  Greatness, as it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” ~ Jim Collins

Summary:  Adapting his “good to great” business model for the social sector, Collins discusses the factors that distinguish great organizations from good ones:  Defining Greatness, Level 5 Leadership, First Who, the Hedgehog Concept, and Turning the Flywheel .  These principles amount to creating a way to assess output results, establishing strong leadership that serves the mission of the organization, getting the right people involved, understanding the organization’s passions, strengths and resources, and building momentum for the organization to grow.  Examples of great social sector organizations include Tom Morris of the Cleveland Orchestra, Wendy Knopp of Teach for America, and Frances Hesselbein of Girl Scouts USA.  Throughout the treatise, Collins insists greatness transcends the differences between business and social, pointing out that great organizations, whether business or social, have much in common with each other, and less in common with mediocre organizations from the same sector.

Notes: I have not read Good to Great.  This monograph was recommended reading for a course on the management of non-profit information organizations.   I borrowed a copy from my local library, and at 35 pages it is such a short read that I highly recommend it to just about anyone in a leadership or management position.  Collins covers a diverse range of social organizations.  In addition to the examples mentioned above,  Collins discusses  former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, high school physics teacher Roger Briggs, and several others.

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