I just read a great business book by Jim Collins called Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
It has a great overview on companies getting to the next level, but it has better analogies that you can apply to everyday life.
Even Track and Field.
Here are the 5 key elements from the book, and a couple of random thoughts that go with it.
First Who… Then What
I’ve often use the expression, “Either hop on the bus with me, or stand on the side of the road wave goodbye”.
Basically, you’re either on the Road to Success, or you’re not.
That kind of attitude made me good, but not great.
Because first you have to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, put the right people in the right seats, and then figure out where to drive it. People are NOT your most important asset. The RIGHT people are.
Now that kind of attitude will make you great.
John Smith of HSI once said, “you can’t make a Donkey win the Kentucky Derby”. Sebastian Coe said “Winning the genetic lottery of life also helps”.
Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose faith)
In short, you must have faith that will prevail in the end, regardless of difficulties (i.e. excuses) and confront the facts of your reality.
Alan Webb reminds me of this story. Despite not getting out of the rounds in the 2004 Olympics, and not making the Olympic team in 2008, he is being criticized and chastised on message boards and forums everywhere.
Yet he still remains with his high school coach that made him great. Sure, he could move to Eugene and live in an oxygen tent, and be surrounded by great coaches, therapists, and training partners, yet he refuses to let go of his roots. Roots… the people who got him where he is now.
He is not done. He has not even peaked. Look at Said Aouita of Morocco. He ran everything from 800m to 5,000m in the Olympics, which is pretty darn impressive.
Hey Alan, maybe your event isn’t the 1500m/Mile?
The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles)
The Hedgehog Concept is not a goal or strategy, it’s an understanding. You must understand what you can be the best at, as well as what you cannot be the best at. Great companies set their goal or strategies based on understanding, as opposed to showing confidence when one is really afraid.
Just because running is your core business doesn’t make you the best, even if you have coached for decades. You must be the best in your core business.
Again, just showing up isn’t good enough. Using another example with John Smith, he quoted he wakes up every morning alive and excited, and always thinking of ways to get better. He didn’t stop coaching after Maurice Green won the Gold medal in Sydney 2000. He didn’t give everyone the same “cookie-cutter” training plan either. Heck, I’ll bet his training plan isn’t the same anymore.
A Culture of Discipline
All companies have culture, some companies have discipline, but few companies have a culture of discipline. With disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy like complicated organizational charts (i.e the “Org” Chart at work). Autonomous people or teams produce a chemistry of great performance. See my article on How to Build a Winning Team.
Ask John Wooden. He never talks about winning. Just the pursuit of excellence. Do everything possible to execute on game day and the points will take care of themselves. He also had his athletes highly conditioned so the last thing he worried about was fatigue in the 4th quarter.
Technology should never be used as the primary means of starting a transformation. Great people carefully select technologies.
This reminds me of people looking for the next big “thing”. Call it what you want… gadget, fad, wave, etc.
Everyone is looking for that next quick fix in becoming a world class athlete. Things from overspeed training devices, to sleds and parachutes. There’s quite a lot to choose from.
These devices shouldn’t make you faster, but rather more efficient while running fast. They can also provide cues. Running is not as simple as bench press. There’s a lot of complex motions, mechanics, and kinetic chains that can greatly affect the way you run.
You really have to pick your tools carefully and think outside the box.
Those were my take home messages from reading the book Good to Great. Your mileage may vary.