How the Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In
by Jim Collins
In his preface to this book, Jim Collins confesses that the work began as an article, a mere distraction while researching his next epic release. His subject matter, how top-tier companies disintegrate, rapidly altered his intended trajectory.
Collins knows a good idea when it fastens its hooks into his mind. He’s the author of one of the most referenced and celebrated business “must-reads” of the last 30 years, Good to Great. If that book chronicled the arduous trek to the zenith of the business world, How the Mighty Fall stands on the shadowy side of the mountain, where businesses tumble down at varying rates of speed and terror.
In search of a cure
Collins is careful in his choice of metaphor to describe the decline of a great company. He does not specifically label corporate downfall as a cancer, because, as he writes, cancer is not self-inflicted. Collins elects to view the situation as an internal illness that, despite the outward appearance of strength and vitality, grows inside a corporation until it reaches a terminal state.
Perhaps a better metaphor would be heart disease caused by the gluttonous intake of the spoils of success. In this case, overexpansion and lack of strategic focus form the plaque that clogs once-healthy arteries.
Much like any cardiovascular illness, Collins believes early detection is the secret to preventing one’s untimely demise.
How the Mighty Fall is Collins’s attempt to answer a simple question about the business equivalent of the silent killer: How would you know? He provides five recognisable stages that create the timeline of a business’s fall from triumph. Each stage is given a thorough examination and is reinforced by key historical examples.
An important distinction in regard to these examples is Collins’s desire not to rely on the crutch of hindsight. Readers should admire Collins for not taking the easy road in this area. He tried, wherever possible, to use materials (financial reports, press releases, etc.) contemporaneous to the period when the company began its downward trend. It’s the “How” of How the Mighty Fall that is paramount to Collins.