The hedgehog concept

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Good to Great
Fast Company
by Jim Collins
October 2001
Start with 1,435 good companies. Examine their performance over 40 years. Find the 11 companies that became great. Now here's how you can do it too. Lessons on eggs, flywheels, hedgehogs, buses, and other essentials of business that can help you transform your company.

I want to give you a lobotomy about change.I want you to forget everything you’ve ever learned about what it takes to create great results. I want you to realize that nearly all operating prescriptions for creating large-scale corporate change are nothing but myths.

The Myth of the Change Program: This approach comes with the launch event, the tag line, and the cascading activities.

The Myth of the Burning Platform: This one saysthat change starts only when there’s a crisis that persuades “unmotivated” employees to accept the need for change.

The Myth of Stock Options: Stock options, high salaries, and bonuses are incentives that grease the wheels of change.

The Myth of Fear-Driven Change: The fear of being left behind, the fear of watching others win, the fear of presiding over monumental failure—all are driversof change, we’re told.

The Myth of Acquisitions: You can buy your way to growth, so it figures that you can buy your way to greatness.

The Myth of Technology-Driven Change: The breakthrough that you’re looking for can be achieved by using technology to leapfrog the competition.

The Myth of Revolution: Big change has to be wrenching, extreme, painful—one big, discontinuous, shatteringbreak.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Totally wrong.

Here are the facts of life about these and other change myths. Companies that make the change from good to great have no name for their transformation—and absolutely no program. They neither rant nor rave about a crisis—and they don't manufacture one where none exists. They don't “motivate” people—their people areself-motivated. There’s no evidence of a connection between money and change mastery. And fear doesn't drive change—but it does perpetuate mediocrity. Nor can acquisitions provide a stimulus for greatness: Two mediocrities never make one great company. Technology is certainly important—but it comes into play only after change has already begun. And as for the final myth, dramatic results do not come fromdramatic process—not if you want them to last, anyway. A serious revolution, one that feels like a revolution to those going through it, is highly unlikely to bring about a sustainable leap from being good to being great.

These myths became clear as my research team and I completed a five-year project to determine what it takes to change a good company into a great one. We systematically scoured alist of 1,435 established companies to find every extraordinary case that made a leap from no-better-than-average results to great results. How great? After the leap, a company had to generate cumulative stock returns that exceeded the general stock market by at least three times over 15 years—and it had to be a leap independent of its industry. In fact, the 11 good-to-great companies that we foundaveraged returns 6.9 times greater than the market’s—more than twice the performance rate of General Electric under the legendary Jack Welch.

The surprising good-to-great list included such unheralded companies as Abbott Laboratories (3.98 times the market), Fannie Mae (7.56 times the market), Kimberly-Clark Corp.(3.42 times the market), Nucor Corp. (5.16 times the market), and Wells Fargo(3.99 times the market). One such surprise, the Kroger Co.—a grocery chain—bumped along as a totally average performer for 80 years and then somehow broke free of its mediocrity to beat the stock market by 4.16 times over the next 15 years. And it didn't stop there. From 1973 to 1998, Kroger outperformed the market by 10 times.

In each of these dramatic, remarkable, good-to-great corporate...
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