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Harnessing Good to Great Principles in Project Management

Updated: Jan 16


Jim Collins' influential book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't  offers profound insights into corporate success. While its primary focus is on how companies can achieve enduring greatness, the principles outlined are equally applicable to project management. In this article, we explore how project managers can apply these lessons to elevate their projects from good to great.   

Level 5 Leadership 

  At the heart of Collins' findings is the concept of Level 5 Leadership. Level 5 leaders are characterized by a unique blend of personal humility and professional will. In project management, this translates to leading with a clear vision while being open to team input and feedback. Such leaders are more focused on the success of the project than personal accolades, ensuring decisions are always in the best interest of the project’s goals.   

Application: Project managers should cultivate a blend of determination and humility, encouraging open dialogue while steering the project towards its objectives.   

First Who, Then What 

 Collins emphasizes getting the right people on the team before deciding on a strategy. In project management, assembling a skilled, versatile, and motivated team is crucial. Having the right team in place ensures that no matter what challenges arise, the team is capable of adapting and overcoming them.   

Application: Prioritize assembling a team whose skills, attitude, and work ethic align with the project's demands. Then, tailor strategies and roles to leverage their strengths.  

 Confront the Brutal Facts  

 Successful companies face realities, no matter how harsh. Similarly, effective project management requires an honest assessment of the project's status, challenges, and potential roadblocks. Ignoring problems or sugarcoating issues only leads to larger problems down the line.  

 Application: Foster a culture of transparency and open communication, where issues can be raised and addressed promptly and constructively.   

The Hedgehog Concept  The Hedgehog Concept is about focusing on what an organization can be the best at. In project management, this means understanding the core objectives and strengths of your team and aligning them with the project's goals. Avoid spreading resources too thin across multiple, unrelated tasks.   

Application: Define what your project team does best and center your strategies and efforts around these competencies.   

Culture of Discipline 

 Disciplined people, thought, and action are crucial in good-to-great companies. Project managers should foster a disciplined approach in planning, execution, and monitoring. This doesn’t mean rigidly adhering to plans but rather maintaining a consistent approach to achieving goals.   

Application: Develop and adhere to structured processes and standards but remain flexible to adapt as needed.   

Technology Accelerators   Collins notes that technology should be viewed as an accelerator, not a creator of momentum. In project management, this means leveraging technology to enhance efficiency and effectiveness, not relying on it to solve all problems.   

Application: Integrate appropriate technologies that complement and enhance the team's abilities without becoming overly dependent on them.   

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop   The concept of the Flywheel effect – the idea that great results come from consistent effort over time – is crucial in project management. Avoid the temptation for quick fixes or constantly changing strategies, which can lead to a "doom loop" of failure.   

Application: Focus on building momentum through consistent, high-quality work and steady progress toward project goals.   

Applying the principles from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't can significantly enhance the effectiveness of project management. By embracing these concepts, project managers can lead their teams to not just meet but exceed their project objectives, achieving greatness in their endeavors. 


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