Quotes Archive

while you can buy your way to growth, you absolutely cannot buy your way to greatness.

- James C. Collins

WHY 20 MILE MARCHERS WIN 20 Mile Marching helps turn the odds in your favor for three reasons: 1. It builds confidence in your ability to perform well in adverse circumstances. 2. It reduces the likelihood of catastrophe when you’re hit by turbulent disruption. 3. It helps you exert self-control in an out-of-control environment.

- James C. Collins

wouldn’t that person be even more amazing if, instead of telling the time, he or she built a clock that could tell the time forever, even after he or she was dead and gone?

- James C. Collins

You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts. The good-to-great companies operated.

- James C. Collins

When you marry operating excellence with innovation, you multiply the value of your creativity.

- James C. Collins

The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline–a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place.

- James C. Collins

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

- James C. Collins

They didn’t use discussion as a sham process to let people have their say” so that they could buy in” to a predetermined decision. The process was more like a heated scientific debate, with people engaged in a search for the best answers.

- James C. Collins

Think of the transformation as a process of buildup followed by breakthrough, broken into three broad stages: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Within each of these three stages, there are two key concepts, shown in the framework and described below. Wrapping around this entire framework is a concept we came to call the flywheel, which captures the gestalt of the entire process of going from good to great.

- James C. Collins

This can only be accomplished by people who live, breathe, eat and sleep what they are doing…. [I am] associated with a large group of knowledgeable, dedicated [people] who eat, breathe, and sleep the world of aeronautics…. Man’s objective should be opportunity for greater accomplishment and greater service. The greatest pleasure life has to offer is the satisfaction that flows from… participating in a difficult and constructive undertaking.

- James C. Collins

This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

- James C. Collins

Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people. The management team.

- James C. Collins

thoughtless reliance on technology is a liability.

- James C. Collins

Visionary companies are so clear about what they stand for and what they’re trying to achieve that they simply don’t have room for those unwilling or unable to fit their exacting standards.

- James C. Collins

Visionary companies make some of their best moves by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism, and—quite literally—accident. What looks in retrospect like brilliant foresight and preplanning was often the result of Let’s just try a lot of stuff and keep what works.

- James C. Collins

Visionary companies pursue a cluster of objectives, of which making money is only one—and not necessarily the primary one.

- James C. Collins

The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.

- James C. Collins

We all know now that the 747 became the flagship jumbo jet of the airline industry, but the decision looks much different from the perspective of the late 1960s. Yet—and this is the key point—Boeing was willing to make the bold move in the face of the risks. As in Boeing’s case, the risks do not always come without pain.

- James C. Collins

the Mach3—leaving hundreds of millions of people to a more painful daily battle with stubble.19

- James C. Collins

We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats – and then they figured out where to drive it.

- James C. Collins

The moment a leader allows himself to become the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality, you have a recipe for mediocrity, or worse. This is one of the key reasons why less charismatic leaders often produce better long-term results than their more charismatic counterparts.

- James C. Collins

We found that for leaders to make something great, their ambition has to be for the greatness of the work and the company, rather than for themselves.

- James C. Collins

The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake.

- James C. Collins

What separates people is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life.”

- James C. Collins

the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality, you have a recipe for mediocrity, or worse. This is one of the key reasons why less charismatic leaders often produce better long-term results than their more charismatic counterparts.

- James C. Collins

Peter Drucker once observed that the drive for mergers and acquisitions comes less from sound reasoning and more from the fact that doing deals is a much more exciting way to spend your day than doing actual work.

- James C. Collins

Smart people instinctively understand the dangers of entrusting our future to self-serving leaders who use our institutions, whether in the corporate or social sectors, to advance their own interests.

- James C. Collins

Smith never wavered. Twenty-five years later, Kimberly-Clark owned Scott Paper outright and beat Procter & Gamble in six of eight product categories.12 In retirement, Smith reflected on his exceptional performance, saying simply, I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.

- James C. Collins

Somehow over the years people have gotten the impression that Wal-Mart was… just this great idea that turned into an overnight success. But…it was an outgrowth of everything we’d been doing since [1945]…. And like most overnight successes, it was about twenty years in the making.

- James C. Collins

technology is important—you can’t remain a laggard and hope to be great. But technology by itself is never a primary cause of either greatness or decline.

- James C. Collins

tends to rivet our attention on the Icarus companies.

- James C. Collins

That’s what makes death so hard—unsatisfied curiosity. —BERYL MARKHAM, West with the Night1

- James C. Collins

Larger-than-life, celebrity leaders who ride in from the outside are negatively correlated with taking a company from good to great. Ten of eleven good-to-great CEOs came from inside the company, whereas the comparison companies tried outside CEOs six times more often.

- James C. Collins

The difficult task is to marry relentless discipline with creativity, neither letting discipline inhibit creativity nor letting creativity erode discipline.

- James C. Collins

lasting transformations from good to great follow a general pattern of buildup followed by breakthrough.

- James C. Collins

The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.

- James C. Collins

Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people, as they inevitably find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people. Worse, it can drive away the best people. Strong performers are intrinsically motivated by performance, and when they see their efforts impeded by carrying extra weight, they eventually become frustrated.

- James C. Collins

The good-to-great companies displayed two distinctive forms of disciplined thought. The first, and the topic of this chapter, is that they infused the entire process with the brutal facts of reality. (The second, which we will discuss in the next chapter, is that they developed a simple, yet deeply insightful, frame of reference for all decisions.)

- James C. Collins

Level 5 leaders are a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless.

- James C. Collins

The good-to-great companies made a habit of putting their best people on their best opportunities, not their biggest problems. The comparison companies had a penchant for doing just the opposite, failing to grasp the fact that managing your problems can only make you good, whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great. There is an important.

- James C. Collins

Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.

- James C. Collins

Level 5 leaders display a workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.

- James C. Collins

Mediocrity results first and foremost from management failure, not technological failure.

- James C. Collins

My God, these guys don’t even know what the return-on-investment will be on this thing.

- James C. Collins

Perhaps your quest to be part of building something great will not fall in your business life. But find it somewhere. If not in corporate life, then perhaps in making your church great. If not there, then perhaps a nonprofit, or a community organization, or a class you teach. Get involved in something that you care so much about that you want to make it the greatest it can possibly be, not because of what you will get, but just because it can be done.

- James C. Collins

Indeed, if there is any one secret” to an enduring great company, it is the ability to manage continuity and change—a discipline that must be consciously practiced, even by the most visionary of companies.

- James C. Collins

Indeed, the real question is not, Why greatness?” but What work makes you feel compelled to try to create greatness?” If you have to ask the question, Why should we try to make it great? Isn’t success enough?” then you’re probably engaged in the wrong line of work.

- James C. Collins

innovation without discipline leads to disaster.

- James C. Collins

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.

- James C. Collins

It didn’t matter how bleak the situation or how stultifying their mediocrity, they all maintained unwavering faith that they would not just survive, but prevail as a great company. And yet, at the same time, they became relentlessly disciplined at confronting the most brutal facts of their current reality.

- James C. Collins

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