Building a Great Organization

shannon-dadI recently reread the bestselling book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Published in 2001, the author details the rise of eleven Fortune 500 companies from being good, to becoming great. Only eleven companies made the cut through extensive research and stats. One critical stat was that they had to have thirty years of consistent history: fifteen with good results and fifteen with great results. This requirement alone knocked out most of the Fortune 500 as it focused on long-term steady growth and progress as opposed to flash-in-the-pan exemplary results for a short period of time maybe due to one outstanding product or a CEO.

A Good to Great company needs a consistent, disciplined approach according to the author and his research. First by picking exceptional leaders (Level 5), then going through what he describes as the hedgehog phase (a slow, methodical phase employing three concentric circles of discipline) and then cultivating it with a culture of discipline and technological improvements.

Once the Good to Great process is implemented, a continuous acceleration of improvement is noticed called the flywheel effect- things get better and better with more and more ease.

I found this book to be fascinating as it lines up very closely with how I like to see and run companies or organizations. By focusing more on improving the matter at hand and less on the limelight, success often finds it way.

Seventeen years ago, I became involved as a softball coach for my daughter Shannon’s Little League team. She was nine at the time and we were new to the city of Richmond and the Tuckahoe Little League system. Little did I know of the success of the Little League in days past, but also of the impending success my daughter’s teams would have at the local and All-Star level. For the next six years, our teams went on to win three State Championships and two runner-up’s. A wonderful streak for anyone to be a participant.

As I reflected back on what made those teams so good, one consistent theme came to mind. I always strived to make the practices and games fun for the girls. So much fun that hopefully the experience would stay with them for a very long time, and possibly develop into their daughter’s wanting to play the game. To me, that would be the ultimate payoff of how well the team did.

So I “hired” excellent Dads as coaches who thought the same as me. We stressed fundamentals and turned routine practices into fun-filled events. We added “talk time” not only describing strategy but discussing great players of the past and why they were great. And we constantly rewarded hard work with little victories, like a game-ball or a sleep over with their teammates.

As we started to jell and win as a team, it became infectious. Girls on other teams wanted to join in the fun. We never lost focus on the girls, making it really enjoyable. Continuous improvement was made during each practice. And the victories continued, year after year.


John Marklin

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