Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: Good to Great and the Social Sectors

June 2020

"Good To Great and the Social Sectors" by Jim Collins 

If you're looking for book recommendations in the productivity and professional development genre, Patton offers a weekly summary of some of the essential and emerging titles from the PMA Library. 
This title is a personal recommendation, but also a favorite of Podcast Guests Tiffany Capers (#19)  and Hal Lewis (#26)

Last week we recommended Jim Collins' business classic Good to Great which illustrated how some organizations make the jump from average companies to ones that dominate their sector, out-performing their competitors and the market overall. This week we take a look at Jim Collins' monograph to accompany Good to Great which is specifically for those in the Social Sectors.  Collins makes the case why "business thinking is not the answer," assuring nonprofit readers that while many of the principles of greatness are consistent between for-profit and nonprofit organizations in some respects, there are definitely differences in areas such as leadership models and measurable outputs. The 35-page monograph is a quick read and certainly a helpful way to put his timeless business classic into a relatable reference for nonprofit leaders everywhere. 

  1. Don't become more like a business. Studying numerous organizations in the Social Sector made Collins realize that simply chasing  "business principles" was not necessarily the key to social sector success.  Values which best serve great organizations are often the best practices for life and success in general: determination, discipline, and willpower. One should seek to emulate successful traits and principles, rather than general practices of the for-profit world.
  2. Leaders will have different demands due to diffused power structures.  The humility and professional will that defined the best for-profit leaders certainly applies to nonprofit leaders as well, but it is crucial to acknowledge the differences in organizational dynamics and power diffusion in the social sector. Collins recommends finding a balance between executive leaders, who possess the concentrated power typical of a for-profit CEO, and "legislative leaders", who must have a deep understanding of political dynamics, persuasion, and a keen sense of the right conditions for action. 
  3. Determine how to quantify your output independently of the business model. Nonprofits must determine how they can measure their output since it is often not as clear as the financial gain that for-profit organizations can use. While there is no right answer how to best do this, one must approach it with rigor and determination and find consistent and intelligent metrics.  While gaining momentum to inspire team members (Collins coined the "the flywheel effect") is quantified by financial gain in the for-profit world, the social sector can instead track things like brand reputation as the indicator of success: specifically how an organization aligns itself deeply and truthfully with the missions that inspire people. 

James C. "Jim" Collins is an American researcher, author, speaker and consultant focused on the subject of business management and company sustainability and growth.