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How the Mighty Fall

In Jim Collins’ helpful book “How the Mighty Fall” he describes the following tell-tale signs of an organization in the first stage of decline from “greatness.”

  • Success, entitlement, arrogance: Success is viewed as ‘deserved,’ rather than fortuitous, fleeting, or even hard-earned in the face of daunting odds; people begin to believe that success will continue almost no matter what the organization decides to do, or not to do.
  • Neglect of the primary flywheel: Distracted by extraneous threats, adventures, and opportunities, leaders neglect a primary flywheel, failing to renew it with the same creative intensity that made it great in the first place.
  • ‘What’ replaces ‘why’: The rhetoric of success (‘We’re successful because we do these specific things’) replaces understanding and insight (‘We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work’).
  • Decline in learning orientation: Leaders lose the inquisitiveness and learning orientation that mark those truly great individuals who, no matter how successful they become, maintain a learning curve as steep as when they first began their careers.”

I consider making a regular and honest assessment of SpringHill (and myself) against these markers one of my top priorities. I have no doubt the moment I stop the self assessment, both I and SpringHill, have taken the first step towards decline.

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