Jim Collins: a peek inside the mind of a business guru

Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

"Decline can be avoided. Decline can be detected. Decline can be reversed." -Jim Collins

Can an organization in decline turn itself around?  Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, says Jim Collins, management guru and author of the recently published book, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In.

In a new interview in The New York Times, Collins points out decline doesn't happen all at once; there are actually five distinct stages of decline:

  1. A lot of hubris born of success;
  2. an undisciplined pursuit of more;
  3. denial of risk and peril;
  4. grasping for salvation with a quick, big solution; and
  5. and finally, capitulation to irrelevance or death.

If organizations can identify themselves in one of these stages (save the last), there still is time, he wrote.

Collins doesn't just write about smart business, he lives and breathes it. For inspiration, Collins turns to the work of one of the greatest management thinkers of all time: Peter Drucker. The message: small really is beautiful. He keeps the overhead of his consulting and research business low, with only five employees and student interns. And he's big on time management. He keeps short daily list of where he's spending his time on a whiteboard in a corner of his office:

  • Creative  53%
  • Teaching 28%
  • Other 19%

That list is his way of keeping tabs on where he commits his time on a day-to-day basis (with the help of three stopwatches). His ideal is to spend 50% of his workdays on creative pursuits, 30% on teaching, and 20% on everything else. That's his own personal level of effectiveness, and apparently he was close to that on the day The New York Times visited him.

Jim Collins is also co-author of two other bestselling books: Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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