Book review: Great by Choice

Emma de Vita reviews the new book by management guru Jim Collins

Great by Choice
Great by Choice

Jim Collins is the management guru whom you dare not ignore. His latest book tries to answer the question: "Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, but others do not?" Collins and his colleague, Morten Hansen, spent nine years trying to enumerate the principles for building a great organisation in tumultuous times.

Two of the biggest surprises in the book are the findings about leaders. The first is that the best leaders are not more risk-taking, visionary or creative; instead, they are more disciplined, empirical and paranoid. Second, if you think leading in a "fast world" always requires "fast decisions", that's a good way to "get killed".

The authors concede that luck does play a role in how successful an organisation is, but they argue that it is the attitude and actions of its managers and leaders that can make one organisation great and another in similar circumstances bad.

"The factors that determine whether or not a company becomes truly great, even in a chaotic and uncertain world, lie largely within the hands of its people," they write. "It is not mainly a matter of what happens to them but a matter of what they create, what they do and how well they do it." Simple.

Emma de Vita is books editor of Management Today

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