by Michael Friedenberg

Bouncing Back

Mar 17, 2010
IT Leadership

A look at company failures during the recession.

Here we are in March 2010. Doesn’t it feel a whole lot better than it did just a year ago? We may not be out of the woods yet, but the overall business landscape looks much better today. Just 12 months ago, we were all staring into the abyss.

As we soldier on in this journey toward recovery, a number of business book authors have been reflecting on why some companies failed while others managed to succeed during the global recession.

Over the past couple of weeks, I read two such books that I want to recommend to business technology leaders. One focuses on companies that have failed and what we can learn from their experiences, while the other delves into how we as leaders can guide a company back from the brink of failure and build a great team.

The first is How the Mighty Fall, by Jim Collins. No doubt you remember his last book, the bestseller Good to Great, and this one doesn’t disappoint either. Collins explores essential questions such as: Why do successful companies fail? Can failure be detected before it’s too late? How can you correct a company’s course if it’s on the path to failure?

Collins’ book is a kind of corporate fable that looks at the leadership and management skills needed to guide a company back to success. The companies he studied include IBM, HP, Xerox, Circuit City, Ames, Rubbermaid and many others. He shares valuable perspective on and insight into the signals to watch for when you’re trying not only to succeed but, more importantly, to correct course.

My second recommendation is Bounce, by Keith McFarland. He takes the view that when your company falters—not if, but when—the key to survival is knowing whether you’ll bounce like a Christmas ornament, an orange or a rubber ball. He serves up some wonderful lessons about getting an organization to move from fear of change to fear of not changing. He writes about the need for a company to have a true mission versus a mission statement. All worthwhile lessons woven into an enjoyable story.

Both books are timely, well written, and worthy of your precious time. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, and since I’m always looking for my next great read, please drop me an e-mail with your recommendations.