You Might Be Good, but Are You Great?
'Good is the enemy of great" is the opening of one of the most influential books in contemporary management thinking. As an opening it's pretty arresting. Maybe not up there alongside "A spectre is haunting Europe" or "In the beginning was the word" — but nonetheless powerful. And although originally written about businesses, the thinking behind it also challenges the self-satisfied mentality of those charities that trumpet their worthy mission statements but sometimes ignore their weak results.
The opening is taken from "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't," one of a series of influential books by U.S. management guru Jim Collins. In "G2G," Collins describes how some organisations grow from being merely good to genuinely great, defining great as "capable of making a significant difference and achieving sustainability."
For charities taking on the "G2G" challenge, even assessing the "good" part is difficult. So "great" becomes very hard indeed. But whether you're good or great, you need to ask if you are genuinely addressing the challenges of poverty, natural disasters, child neglect, social inequality, human rights violations, environmental degradation, etc. Candidly you can only assess yourself as "great" if you achieve your mission — if you have, indeed, reduced global warming, or slowed HIV spread, or guaranteed the nation's heritage is preserved.
At The Management Centre, we're currently running a research project on how to become great — comparing charity programmes, campaigning and fundraising that are trying to make the "greatness" leap. The data isn't all in yet, but already it supports Collins' thesis that "greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance, but a matter of conscious choice and discipline." Below I outline how you can make Collins' "conscious choices" through three practical stages: disciplined people, disciplined thought and disciplined action.