I’ve been a fan of business author Jim Collins for many years. As a pastor, I read his books and baptize them for use as a church leader. He’s probably best known for
Good to Great, a book that examined how good companies became great companies while their competitors failed to do so.
Two years ago I read another of his books: “How the Mighty Fall“. In this book, Collins outlines the stages of decline that mark the downfall of a great company. It’s a fascinating read. I believe it’s also a must read for anyone in leadership. The moral of the story is this: successful companies, or organizations, or churches can fall from their perch if they fail to identify the stages of decline.
The Five Stages of Decline
- The Hubris of Success. Success can insulate leaders from the best ideas because the new ideas don’t fit with the old way of doing things. Success can also create a false sense of being invulnerable, leading to arrogance and entitlement.
- The Undisciplined Pursuit of More. When successful organizations lack discipline, they often overreach. They try to scale too fast or pursue many options rather than being focused on what they do well.
- Denial of Risk and Peril. To quote Collins, “In Stage 3, leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility.”
- Grasping for Salvation. This could also be called the search for the silver bullet.
- Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death. You don’t want to be in Stage 5.
If you think about the five stages of decline, they can apply to organizations as well as relationships, churches as well as businesses. If you’re in a position of leadership, I’d encourage you to buy the book and give it a good read.