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Book Reviews, Experience, Perspective

Great By Choice by Jim Collins

I’ve decided to share some excerpts from Jim Collins’ book: Great By Choice [Chapter #]

I’ll add to this post as I go to keep my entire review and thoughts together.

  • A key differentiator between leaders that win and leaders that lose is in the discipline. When Progressive’s CEO chose to be consistent in action to strengthen the share price reputation in the market, he chose to win. Others would have easily seen the situation as beyond normal control. A winner thinks beyond the options given through past examples. [Choice 2]
  • The elements of a good 20 mile march should be taught in every institution. The key is in defining the unique performance markers and constraints to keep pace over long periods of time. This is not a new concept or discovery, but the practical approach is so simple that it would be foolish to ignore it in any context in which we seek to succeed. When we are treading new territory, the most important aspect would be in making the 20 mile march possible to achieve. We can be prone to overshoot when we are inexperienced with the processes necessary to accomplish what we are setting out to do. [Choice 3]

Commit to a “20-mile march” that you will bring you to your big hairy audacious goal. Collins makes the analogy to someone who is trying to walk across the county. The best approach, says Collins, is to attempt to travel the same distance every day. If you’re on a 2-mile march, says Collins, you don’t bolt 30 miles ahead when the weather is good. You go 20 miles. When the weather is bad, you can’t sit inside and complain – you still have make 20 miles. Source


  • We can only build confidence through achievement. Achievements are the only way to continue to move forward through uncertainty and adversity. This directly implies there is a need to initially step out of the comfort zone and attempt what we have never done first in order to know that we can. [Choice 3]
  • Just as you test the waters before jumping in, so should an organization test a market, idea, or whatever in a small way before introducing the new concept in a big way. With the nonprofit organization I recently launched, I have been planning a big conference for next year with hopes of a turn out of about 10,000 or more people. This reading makes me reflect on the need for many micro-events along the way to learn what works and what will not before setting up such a large event that may or may not accomplish what I want it to. I need to shoot the bullets before rearing up for a big cannonball performance that could cripple the organization if anything went wrong. [Choice 4]
  • Enduring greatness is a direct result of “fanatic discipline and empirical creativity.” The need for discipline is vital in such an impulsive marketplace. There is an unwritten sense of panic when a company thinks that it will miss out on a deal or “the next big thing.” [Choice 4]
  • “If we have time to let the situation unfold, giving us more clarity before we act, we take that time…sometimes the quick are the dead.” There are many proverbs that support this notion in that moving fast is not an audible for dealing with uncertainty. Business is much more like a mega-marathon than it is a sprint. Each decision must be as careful as it can be under the circumstances. [Choice 5]
  • 10Xers fail forward, knowing how to recognize disruptive moments as an opportunity to shift the intensity of their focus in the midst of a new opportunity of danger. [Choice 5]
  • “10Xers build buffers and shock absorbers far beyond the norm of what others do.” Cross-comparing yourself to others in the industry to see if you’re on target will not get you on a 10Xer level if you do not set a standard for yourself much higher than all the others. Streamlining your business puts you in the river with the rest which more often than not is to your own destruction. [Choice 5]
  • Each 10Xer company “adhered to their [SMaC] recipes with fanatic discipline to a far greater degree than the comparisons” and all amendments to their recipes were done with “empirical creativity and productive paranoia.” Create checks and balances to help you stay consistent in leadership, vision, and execution. [Choice 6]
  • “Reject the choice between consistency and change; embrace consistency and change at the same time.” Only change things consistent with your vision, mission and SMaC. [Choice 6]
  • “A solid SMaC recipe is the operating code for turning strategic concepts into reality, a set of practices more enduring than mere tactics. Tactics change from situation to situation, whereas SMaC practices can last for decades and apply across a wide range of circumstances.” [Choice 6]
  • What’s more difficult than implementing change is being confident about what works, why, and knowing the time to change and when not to. Digging into the reasons why what works works will give you more insight on the importance of consistency. [Choice 6]
  •  The only role luck tends to play in business that I fully recognize from Jim Collins’ Great by Choice book is the Who Luck. Even still, who luck is based on strong relationships that you have chosen to love and they in turn love you just as much. A reciprocity to the death line creates a bond so strong that in the toughest times, people we care about come through for us and make impossible circumstances only unfounded suppositions. In the end, it’s all a matter of choice. [Choice 7]

How does this summary of high points strike you?

If you’ve read it, what concepts do you refer back to the most?

If you haven’t, what part of this breakdown interests you the most?

About Keila Harris

An MBA graduate with an unparalleled ability to keep a team focused on the goal with clear deliverables to produce for specific results. I am a self-starter. I began a nonprofit organization in 2012 called the DBMH Project, Inc. and then authored a book as well. I love the intersection of business and technology and solving problems alongside colleagues dedicated to their work. I like to focus on growth strategies through SMART goals and accountability. I believe power is in the execution of constant learning and open, humble self-improvement. Therefore I read incessantly and expand my network at every opportunity. #PayItForward #SuccessIsTheJourney



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