Monday, June 1, 2009

How the Mighty Fall: Stage 1

Today begins a series of posts diving into Jim Collins' latest book "How the Mighty Fall." Continuing in his groundbreaking work in "Built to Last" and "Good to Great", Collins uses meticulous research to document 5 stages of decline. Sprinkled throughout his new work are references to his prior work; if you need a quick Collins primer, see here for introductions to terms like Flywheel, Hedgehog, and First Who, Then What.

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

It’s far better to create your own future, repeatedly, than to wait for external forces to dictate your choices - Robert Galvin, Motorola

Hubris can be defined as the excessive pride that brings down a hero or outrageous arrogance that inflicts suffering upon the innocent

Multiple forms of hubris
  1. Undisciplined leaps into areas where a company cannot become the best
  2. Pursuit of growth beyond what it can deliver with excellence
  3. Bold, risky decisions that fly in the face of conflicting or negative evidence
  4. Denying even the possibility that the enterprise could be at risk from external threats or internal erosion
  5. Arrogant neglect

Great organizations foster a productive tension between continuity and change. On the one hand, they adhere to the principles that produced success in the first place, yet on the other hand, they continually evolve, modifying their approach with creative improvements and intelligent adaptation.

When institutions fail to distinguish between current practices and the enduring principles of their success, and mistakenly fossilize around their practices, they’ve set themselves up for decline.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with adhering to specific practices and strategies but only if you comprehend the underlying why behind those practices, and thereby see when to keep them and when to change them.

The best organizational leaders remain students of their work, relentlessly asking questions –why, why, why – and have an incurable compulsion to vacuum the brains of the people they meet.

Stage 1 Markers1. Success entitlement, arrogance
2. Neglect of a primary flywheel
3. “What” replaces “Why”
4. Decline in learning orientation
5. Discounting the role of luck
Questions for ChurchWorld
  1. Does your primary flywheel (mission identity) face inevitable demise within the next three to five years due to forces outside your control?
  2. Have you lost passion for your primary flywheel?
If you answer no to both questions, continue to push your primary flywheel with as much imagination and fanatical intensity as you did when you first began. Continually experiment with new ideas, both as a mechanism to stimulate progress and as a hedge against an uncertain future. That does not mean static, unimaginative replication; it means never-ending creative renewal.

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