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Quotes: Jim Collins Quotes

Most learning & development professionals can appreciate the work of Jim Collins. Implicit in all of his work is the idea of continuous improvement and becoming a learning organization. We have provided some of the best Jim Collins quotes from his books below.

Jim Collins - Built to last - Quotes

Jim Collins, "Good to Great."

  • Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.
  • Good to great companies focus equally on what to do, and what not to do.
  • People are not your most important asset. The right people are.
  • All good to great companies have Level 5Leaders; these leaders have a ferocious resolve, and almost stoic determination to do whatever needs to be done to make the company great. They are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results. They will sell the mill or fire their brother if that's what it takes to make the company great.
  • Good to great companies first got the right people on the bus--and the wrong people off the bus--and then figured out where to drive it.
  • The only way to deliver to people who are achieving is to not burden them with the people who are not achieving…letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people…it can drive away the best people.
  • How do you know when it is time to let someone go? Ask yourself if you would hire them again.
  • No company can grow revenues consistently faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company. If your growth rate in revenue consistently outpaces your growth rate in people, you simply will not--indeed cannot--build a great company.
  • Managing your problems can only make you good, whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great.
  • You need executives, on the one hand, who argue and debate--sometimes violently--in pursuit of the best answers, yet, on the other hand, who unify fully behind a decision, regardless of parochial interests.
  • You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts of reality.
  • You'll never remain on top if you don't have an intrinsic passion for what you are doing.
  • Avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy and instead create a culture of discipline.
  • Recruit entrepreneurial leaders and give them the freedom to determine the best path to achieving their objectives.
  • Good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop….[it comes about] in a cumulative process--step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel--that adds up to sustained and spectacular results.
  • You absolutely must have the discipline not to hire until you find the right people.

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, Built to Last:

  • Built to last companies outperform the market
  • The signature of a truly great entity is not the absence of difficulty, but the ability to come back from difficult times stronger than before.
  • Why on earth would you settle for something mediocre that does little more than making money when you can create something outstanding that makes a lasting contribution as well?
  • To be built to last you must be built to change
  • Built to last is at its core about relentless, creative drive.
  • Visionary companies make some of their best moves by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism, and--quite literally--accident.
  • Visionary companies [have] a core ideology--core values and sense of purpose beyond just making money--that guides and inspires people throughout the organization and remains relatively fixed for long periods of time.
  • Profit is like oxygen, food, and water, and blood for the body; they are not the point of life, but without then, there is no life.
  • The authenticity of the [business] ideology and the extent to which a company attains consistent alignment with ideology counts more than the content of the ideology.
  • If an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except its basic beliefs as it moves through corporate life…The only sacred cow in an organization should be its basic philosophy of doing business.
  • The drive for progress is never satisfied with the status quo, even when the status quo is working well.
  • The drive for progress doesn't wait for the external world to say "It's time to change."
  • Visionary companies set audacious goals and make bold daring moves, something flying in the face of industry conventional wisdom or strategic prudence.
  • Visionary companies tend to be more demanding of their people than other companies, both in terms of performance and congruence with the core ideology.
  • Continuous improvement [for visionary companies] is an institutionalized habit--a disciplined way of life--ingrained into the fabric of the organization and reinforced by tangible mechanisms that create discontent with the status quo.
  • Visionary companies install powerful mechanisms to create discomfort--to obliterate complacency--and thereby stimulate change and improvement before the external world demands it.
  • Visionary companies thrive on discontent. They understand that contentment leads to complacency, which inevitably leads to decline.
  • Visionary companies invest more heavily in R&D as a percentage of sales in every single case.
  • The frightening truth is that you are probably as qualified as anyone else to help your organization become visionary.
  • You do not "create" or "set" your core ideology. You discover your core ideology.

Jim Collins (How the Mighty Fall):

  • 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 a decline.
  • No company can consistently grow revenues faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company.
  • If a great company consistently grows revenues faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth, it will simply stagnate; it will fall.
  • One of the great tragedies of this company [Bank of America] is that it lost a lot of good young people because they weren’t a meritocracy…[ a young executive said,] Doing a start-up seems less risky than working in a climate of denial.
  • Whether a company sustains exceptional performance depends first and foremost on whether it continues to have the right people in power.
  • When an organization grows beyond its ability to fill its key seats with the right people, it has set itself up for a fall.
  • One of the keys to sustained performance lies in understanding how greatness can be lost.
  • Past accomplishments guarantee nothing about future success.
  • Exit definitely or renew obsessively.
  • [To survive, you need] never-ending creative renewal.
  • Great companies foster a productive tension between continuity and change.


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