How The Mighty Fall

How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins, A Facilitation Case study

We were surprised when the CEO of one of the most successful companies on the London FTSE stock exchange contacted us last year wanting to discuss how we might go about facilitating a workshop based on  How the Mighty Fall. He had seen our Good to Great Facilitation Case study and liked what he saw. He told us that some things hit a little too close to home when he read How the Mighty Fall, and Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins.
If you haven’t read How the Mighty Fall it is Jim Collin’s attempt to answer the question;

How would a company apparently at the top of its game know if it was already on the path to decline?

In typical Collins style he starts off by creating a series of definitions that can be used to identify the companies he wants to study. He then carefully selects a second set of comparison companies and researches  the key differences between the two groups. Based on this research he came up with a model. In this case there were four “Stages of Decline” with a total of twenty-seven “Markers of Decline”.

Facilitation Approach

Here is how we prepared for the session;

  1. All of the participants were given a copy of the book to read in advance of the meeting.
  2. Everyone completed an online survey where they were asked;
    1. Which five of these markers worry you the most in the context of your company?
    2. Which five of these markers worry you the least in the context of your company?
  3. The facilitator summarized the results of the poll

We used this approach because we knew that by forcing people to pick the five things that worried them the most that things were going to get “put on the table” and opened up for discussion.

During the session we discussed the results of the poll focusing our attention on the things that worried people the most, as well as the things that had the most disagreement. (Disagreement is where something comes up on both the most worried and least worried lists for a significant number of people.) There were a number of markers that had a large proportion of the room worried. We then switched to action planning and decided what needed to be done to address these issues. Since “A declining proportion of the right people in key seats” was the biggest concern we actually spent the time identifying key gaps in each major area, before discussing how these gaps would be closed.

It is interesting that the things that worried people the most came from different stages of the model. We had asked in the survey what stage people felt the company was in, but got no useful results from this. (We ran the same workshop a second time and this company also had concerns from many different stages.)

I was surprised at the companies who requested this work. Neither of these companies appeared to be in great risk of a fall, but both were concerned. It reminded me of something said during Advisory Board meeting I was facilitating on an Alzheimer’s drug. One of the Advisors said; “If you think you have Alzheimer’s you don’t”.

The good news is that in spite of their success both companies found something specific that they could improve.

Whether you are seriously concerned about a fall or not I highly recommend the book.

We are not associated with the author Jim Collins in any way.