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How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In Hardcover – 4 Jun 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Business (4 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847940420
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847940421
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.3 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

A look at the reasons why a company fails, and how to avoid the fall.

From the Inside Flap

Decline can be avoided.

Decline can be detected.

Decline can be reversed.

Amidst the desolate landscape of fallen great companies, Jim Collins began to wonder: How do the mighty fall? Can decline be detected early and avoided? How far can a company fall before the path toward doom becomes inevitable and unshakable? How can companies reverse course?

In How the Mighty Fall, Collins confronts these questions, offering leaders the well-founded hope that they can learn how to stave off decline and, if they find themselves falling, reverse their course. Collins' research project-more than four years in duration-uncovered five step-wise stages of decline:

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More

Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril

Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

By understanding these stages of decline, leaders can substantially reduce their chances of falling all the way to the bottom.

Great companies can stumble, badly, and recover.

Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline. There is no law of nature that the most powerful will inevitably remain at the top. Anyone can fall and most eventually do. But, as Collins' research emphasizes, some companies do indeed recover-in some cases, coming back even stronger-even after having crashed into the depths of Stage 4.

Decline, it turns out, is largely self-inflicted, and the path to recovery lies largely within our own hands. We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our history, or even our staggering defeats along the way. As long as we never get entirely knocked out of the game, hope always remains. The mighty can fall, but they can often rise again.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is difficult to think that you might read a business book that can change your life, but this book might just do that - your business life, that is. I recently bought Collins' Good to Great, but saw this and decided to read it first. Having started a business in 2004 and a second, subsidiary business just over a year ago, I wanted to find ways in which to better react to what are difficult times, with recession and a whole lot of changes and avoid the temptation just to pack it all in and retire. Collins describes 5 steps or stages of decline: Hubris born of success; Undisciplined pursuit of more; Denial of risk and peril; Grasping for salvation and lastly, Capitulation to irrelevance or death. Even over a period of 10 years, I have seen my own business go through the first four stages and am only just beginning to see some green shoots of regeneration. The book, far from being doom and gloom, offers advice and positive steps, with good examples, for how to counter risks at every stage: obviously the further down the slipery slope you are, the harder it will be to recover, but not impossible and this is the point of the book - how to start to become great again. I found myself marking pages and returning to different sections of the book and using it it to plan, train and retrain myself and others into a different way of thinking. I have read and studied many books on business and management: while much is useful, even illuminating, few have the impact, for me at least, of this book. Counter-intuitively, a book about how companies fail, might just be the thing to ensure against failure, identify with ones own mistakes and make sure they will not be repeated. If you are in business and in tough times, I heartily recommend this book: if you are enjoying good times, you might just benefit also: a great read.
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Format: Hardcover
In How the Mighty Fall, Collins examines how and why once great companies have since declined. Relying on many years of research of several thousand companies, he identifies five stages of organizational decline: Hubris Born of Success, Undisciplined Pursuit of More, Denial of Risk & Peril, Grasping for Salvation, and Capitalization to Irrelevance or Death. This is a process that can continue for many years and, frequently, is not recognized - or at least not taken seriously -- until it is too late. As Collins explains, "The origins of this work date back to more than three years earlier, when I became curious about why some of the great companies in history, including some once-great enterprises we'd researched for Built to Last and Good to Great, had fallen. The aim of this piece is to offer a research-grounded perspective of how decline can happen, even to those that appear invincible, so that leaders might have a better chance of avoiding their fate...By understanding the five stages of decline discussed in these pages, leaders can substantially reduce the chances of falling all the way to the bottom, tumbling from iconic to irrelevant. Decline can be avoided. The seeds of decline can be detected early. And as long as you don't fall all the way to the fifth stage, decline can be reversed. The might can fall, but they can often rise again."

These are the five stages to which Collins refers:

1. Hubris born of success: Faith and confidence become pride and arrogance. Leaders become careless and workers become complacent. "We're so great we can do anything!"

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Format: Audio CD
I am a big fan of the work by Jim Collins and his team. I listen to this and his other books (BTL & GTG) regularly on my long journeys. I love the insight into the inner workings of the huge companies they dissect and the history behind those businesses. I would urge businesses owners, budding entrepreneurs, or those seeking to create an area of excellence such as a school or a department within the school to listen to all his work to date. This is not the depressing piece of work I had anticipated, in my opinion it underlines and expands on earlier principles.
If I had to choose a book of his to start with it would be Good to Great.
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By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." -- Genesis 11:4

How the Mighty Fall takes a methodology similar to Built to Last and Good to Great and searches for differences among paired companies (Loser--Winner; A&P--Kroger; Addressograph--Pitney Bowes; Ames--Wal-Mart; Bank of America--Wells Fargo; Circuit City--Best Buy; Hewlett Packard--IBM; Merck--Johnson & Johnson; Motorola--Texas Instruments; Rubbermaid--None qualified; Scott Paper--Kimberly-Clark; and Zenith--Motorola) As you can see, it all makes for strange bedfellows (Motorola is on both sides of the divide and Rubbermaid doesn't have a winning comparison partner). As before, the analysis relies on public information from that period (such as annual reports, business journalism articles, and analyst reports).

From these data, Jim Collins discerns the following taxonomy of stages:

1. Hubris (excess pride) due to prior success
2. Undisciplined pursuit of more
3. Denial of risk and peril
4. Grasping for salvation
5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death

Reaching any one of these stages doesn't mean that stage 5 is inevitable in Collins' view.

The result is more like a monograph than a full business book with limited examples and observations. Many readers will find themselves hungering for more.

I was grateful to Mr. Collins for the excellent way that he defined and described his cases. As a result, I was able to look into what he was measuring to see what else might be there.

I had the good fortune to work with most of these companies as a consultant either just before or during the measurement period.
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