"Good to Great" Explores Why and How Some Companies Make the Leap

"Good to Great" Explores Why and How Some Companies Make the Leap

By Ryan Christopoulos

Following up on his last book, "Built to Last," Jim Collins lays out the necessary framework for a company or organization that wants to make the important transition of moving from good to great. Collins conducted research over a 15-year-period, examining eleven “good-to-great” companies while also observing their industry equivalents.

Through the observations and interviews of these companies, Collins and his team identify the key components necessary to lead and develop sustaining change in any organization. These elements include identifying types of leadership, developing collective goals, employing the right people in the right positions, keying on areas of strength and weakness, and developing organizational culture. Collins presents his ideas in an approachable and applicable way, with real examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of the framework. 

The "hedgehog concept" is one of the key elements presented in the book. It stems from the idea that despite a predator's best efforts to capture the hedgehog, the hedgehog has been designed so it can always defend itself from an attack. In an organization, the group must identify their "hedgehog concept," or what it does better than anyone else in the world. This allows groups to establish an identity and a purpose that is unique to the organization and makes them special.

When leading a group of teachers, it is vital to identify their “hedgehogs.” What makes a particular group of teachers and school better than any other school in the country? What can they do better than anyone else? This becomes the foundation which the school builds future successes upon and makes the move from being a good school to a great school. A leader can make a lot of headway and progress by identifying this “hedgehog concept.”

In addition, the book extensively analyzes what good leadership looks like. Known as “level five” leaders, these individuals put the organization ahead of any particular person, including themselves. Leaders in any capacity will appreciate reading about how leadership has been leveraged to promote sustained success in a variety of organizations.

This book is helpful for teachers and leaders because it lays out a recipe for success regardless of the industry. While the majority of the examples presented in this book come from the business side, it does not try to impose business practices into public institutions. Business is only the medium through which these principles are enacted.

If you're skeptical about the business jargon of this particular text, monographs have been produced to specifically address how the good-to-great framework can be applied to these other sectors. For those who are interested in taking a leadership role within their organization, this book will provide a foundation for establishing effective management practices.

As I continue to pursue new leadership roles within my organization, I will continually turn to Collins work for guidance and advice, in particular working to develop my own hedgehog concepts.

Education, like many other organizations is made of many concentric environments that we work within and lead. While these environments may change (individual classroom vs. teaching team vs. school team vs. district), I don’t believe the hedgehog concept should change. In an ideal district, the hedgehog concept should be consistent because the players are in the right places at the right time for the right reasons. If they are not, being a level five leader becomes tantamount.


Contact Us

Master of Science in Education School of Education & Social Policy

618 Garrett Place
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/467-1458

Email: msedprogram@northwestern.edu