A little over a week ago I finished reading the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. A companion monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, arrived not long ago and I’ll probably read it (all 35 pages) sometime this week. Collins wrote this piece due to the positive response by non-profits organizations and institutions to Good to Great. The subtitle to the Social Sectors work is notable: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer.
Indeed, a brief scan of the text brings Collins’ perspective, informed by his inductive research, to light. The opening paragraph reads: “We must reject the idea–well-intentioned, but dead wrong–that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become ‘more like a business.’ Most businesses–like most of anything else in life–fall somewhere between mediocre and good. Few are great. When you compare great companies with good ones, many widely practiced business norms turn out to correlate with mediocrity, not greatness. So, then, why would we want to import the practices of mediocrity into the social sectors?”
Surprised? Wouldn’t we expect a guy applying principles and research on great companies to the social sectors to push them into a business mold. That is, after all, his bias, right? The world he knows and the underlying assumptions? Don’t get me wrong. This is not a blind attempt to suggest that we can conduct purely unbiased inquiries into the workings of our worlds. This is an attempt to suggest that we may wrongly assume people’s assumptions and biases based on our own.
So, I’m kindly pressing back a little on the earlier conversation here surrounding the Leadership Journal interview with Collins about Good to Great and churches/pastors, many of whom have shown great interest in Collins’ work there.
Could it be that in an effort to be appropriately critical of business models of leadership and understanding organizations, that we fail to hear what is being presented by someone like Collins solely on the basis of his association with the business world?
My invitation for discussion is this:
Who’s read Good to Great? What’s your take? Is there usefulness for Collins’ work in the church? What might that be? Who hasn’t read it and is suspicious of its usefulness for the church? What is the basis for that suspicion?