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The book Good to Great by Jim Collins is a carefully researched book that revealed the five principles that good companies used in achieving greatness and how they went about in implementing them. This paper, therefore, analyses these five principles. The paper examines the practicality and the accomplishment of the principles. The paper also illustrates the application of the principles in a secondary school setting.
Analysis of the Five Principles
The good to great principles are practical and realistic in nature. Firstly, the principles are realistic because were drawn from a sound research. Collin (2001) examined 1,435 companies that were regarded as good companies. Only 11 companies revealed the good to great principles over a period of fifteen years (p. 211). Secondly, the principles were tested and proved to have practical results by the 11 companies. The study revealed that the 11 great companies were originally not great companies. But after the implementation of the good to great principles the companies become very successful. Basically, the concepts were not mere theories but had practical implications.
Since the good to great principles are realistic, they also can be accomplished. The principles can be effective in corporate business organizations and even in personal pursuits. On the one hand, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) can decide the right people to work with. CEOs can also influence the area of concentration for the organization. On the other hand, the principles can also be applied on small scale business, and on a personal life of an individual. One has to make right decisions to do the things they love and care about. Even on the small scale, one has to be disciplined enough to focus on the right things. In all its applications, no single principle by itself makes great achievement (p. 218). All principles work together as an integrated set. However, the most basic principle to start with is the first principle. Unless the first principle is implemented it can be very difficult to accomplish the other four principles. The right people are the important assets in achieving greatness. An organization which has right people in their right positions will make right decisions in their daily work. Such people will be disciplined and passionate on what they are doing.
In as much as the good to great principles are realistic and can be accomplished in all life situations, there are still some obstacles that can be met in implementing them. For example, getting the right people is in a way more difficult to find. The most common way of hiring best people is through interviews. The author argued that good to great teams are composed of people with a sense of balance in the rest of their lives i.e. family, church and so on (p.61). In this case, interviews alone could not provide enough time to scrutinise the right people. The author, however, did not provide better ways and ideas of how to practically find the right people. Finding the right people could therefore be the greatest challenge to many organizations.
The second principle can also be challenging. In large organization, it can be very difficult or else impossible for managers to personally access accurate information in all areas. In this case, managers depend on the subordinates to provide honesty information. This communication approach can be obstructed by what Greenberg (2005) call MUM effect (p. 260). This is a tendency where people refrain from communicating bad news to their managers. Because of this managers can ignore the realities that can affect the success of the organisation. This implies that it could be crucial to create a climate where honesty is valued and honored.
The third principle which is my favorite principle can be applied even in one's personal life. One would believe that this principle qualifies one to be identified with the "right people" discussed in the first principle. The principle helps one identify his/her passion. Unless people know what they love and care about, they cannot focus on doing the right things. Again those who have understood their passion will be disciplined enough to avoid wasting time on anything that does not fit (p. 207). Such people will eventually end up being the "right people" on doing something they believe in and can easily achieve greatness. This principle is still a difficult one to accomplish. Firstly, it is not easy to identify one big important thing in an organization. It could take long time to grab the one unique thing that can bring advantages to the organization. Most of the top managers are hired on contract basis and could not be easier for them to settle down and identify the specific areas of advantage within their tenure of office. Secondly, passion comes when people are engaged in doing what they truly believe in. Not many people end up doing the things that were passionate of doing. This principle requires a real genius to see through all the clutter and grab one thing from it. These people do what really matters. It is, therefore, not easy to achieve this principle.
The fourth principle deals with self-discipline. This begins with the right people. Right people easily behave rightly. The right people are disciplined and have disciplined thoughts and action (p.127). The fifth principle is the most difficult one to accomplish in our country. Malawi for example, is still technologically undeveloped and many people are not very conversant with technology. The correct use of technology in achieving greatness could, therefore, be very challenging in most organization.
An Example of a Good to Great Leader
The story of our head teacher Cyrus Msiska who was posted to our school exemplifies the good to great leader. Before Msiska came to our school there were so many problems. Student performance was very low. Total school enrolment was decreased; many students were transferring away to other schools. The school discipline was compromised; there were many cases of student's pregnancies and alcohol abuse. When he was posted to head the school, he simply initiated the transferring away of the deputy head teacher he found at the school. He dissolved the school management and entirely filled the positions with the right people. He still carried along some wrong people but he completely ignored them by not including them in the school management. He requested the Ministry to post some more teachers at the school. He reallocated the positions and responsibilities to the teachers. Those students who were a nuisance to the school were also suspended from the school. This very act of coming up with the right people improved the school system. The new set of administration formulated new strategies. The school discipline was instilled. Teachers were motivated with the new management styles of transparency, participatory approach and accountability. The students were also motivated by the new administration and school performance was increased. Many students were transferred into the school until it reaches its full capacity. This situation refers to the "who, then what" principle.
The new head teacher exemplified the "confront the brutal facts" concepts by making deliberate efforts in opening up channels of communication. He scheduled morning caucuses for teachers on every Monday to discuss issues of the school. He also introduced school tea where all teachers could meet at break time. During tea break there was informal communication which was very important. It revealed the actual realities of what was going on in an institution. The head teacher also organised meetings with the students' representative body to discuss their evaluations of the institution.
The changes created the strongest culture of discipline. The head teacher guided the school to come up with school motto; working with burning spirit. This was a short expression of a guiding principle of working with passion. This statement defined the school culture. It reminded students to study hard. All the things that were not central to the business of the school were stopped while those that were central to school business were promoted. For example, study time for students was increased. Teachers agreed to work in teams in preparing lessons. The teachers also began to organize internal trainings which gave an opportunity to learn from each other. Students also were able to check the behavior of each other. Everybody was responsible to attain the common goal. The school results tremendously improved and enrolment was increased. Both the teachers and students demonstrated the "Hedgehog" and "Culture of discipline" concepts.
Personal Application of the Five Principles
The area in my life that I am passionate of improving from good to great is the class I teach. I teach Physical Science, a subject that is not well performed by many students. Initially, I am going to ask students that are not passionate about my subject to drop it. I will also scrutinize the students who will show interest in the subject. Secondly, will help the students gain confidence in themselves that they can pass the subject. I will use a lot of class experiments when teaching the subject. This will help students see the knowledge they need to master. I will stop giving students summary notes. Instead, will enforce a strong reading culture and expect students to make their own summary notes. I am intending to collect movies that express scientific concepts and show the students in a particular arranged time. This will enhance scientific concepts learned in class. This will give chance to students to appreciate the application of science in our daily life experiences. Many students fail the subject because of the misconceptions and the negative attitude they have towards science subject. I will be sensitive to the realities on the ground and spot out the perceptions about the subject and incorporate such information in making right decisions in achieving better performance in the subject.
This approach will certainly help in achieving greatness. The right students taking the subject will love the subject and will be highly motivated. Team work amongst them will be increased. Class concentration will also be high. A lot of class distractions like noise will be completely minimized. Most importantly, the performance of students will be highly improved.
The application of the good to great principles in my work will, however, encounter a lot of challenges. Firstly, there might be lack of support from fellow teachers and school management. To effectively implement these principles there will some changes in class enrolment. For example, the students dropping my subject are likely to cause overcrowding in other classes. This might cause inconveniences to fellow teacher and management. And since many members might not be familiar with these principles might resist the change. Secondly, lack of resources will also cause problems. To apply the principles in my class there will be need for sufficient resources for experiments and enough text books for students.
These problems seem to be huge, but since the right students will be attending the subject, together we will discuss on how best to use the available resources. I will be expected to discuss with the teachers and management on the new changes on the class size. After achieving greatness in my subject area, I believe the same principles could be applied across the school system.
The five principles outlined in "Good to Great" book are realistic and can be accomplished. These principles have been illustrated by the 11 companies but also in my own experience. Studying of the book has been helpful to my life because it systematically presented how greatness can be easily achieved.