Mike’s Bookshelf

Bookcase3Over the last four years I have accumulated quite a lot of leadership books, dvds, articles, complete Maxwell courses and other items about leadership. As you can see on the left my bookshelf is overflowing.

This page will pull something off the shelf and discuss how we can use it to improve our leadership abilities.

Can Masonry Go from “Good to Great?”

The first book I pulled off my shelf was written by Jim Collins and was the result of a five year study to understand what made some good companies excel and become great companies, while others stayed at a level of mediocrity or worse off just died. The book identifies those elements that made the good companies great and uses them to provide a structure that can be applied to an organization to take it from “Good to Great.”

Four years later Jim published a supplement that discussed how the “Good To Great” principles applied to social sector organizations. He recognized that questions arise from leaders of social sector organizations when trying to apply the good to great principles and this supplement discusses those issues.

As always when studying leadership I do it with my “Masonic Lens” and ask myself “How can this help Masonry?”

The research by Collins shows that building a great organization proceeds in four basic stages with each stage consisting of two fundamental principles. Here are the stages and my comments and opinions as they relate to the current state of Masonry.

Stage 1 – Disciplined People

The two fundamental principles for this stage are “Level 5 Leadership” and “First Who…Then What.”

Collins defines a Level 5 Leader as one that has put the success of the organization ahead of his own and has a fierce resolve to do whatever it takes to see that the work of the organization succeeds. Masonry certainly has a great number of leaders who quietly and diligently work for the cause every day and expect no great reward from it. Their reward comes from seeing Masonry progress. However there are some leaders in our organization that believe their work requires they receive a title and the title makes them a respected leader.

  • Masonry needs more Level 5 Leaders.

The “First Who…Then What,” means that great organizations, as Collins puts it, “have the right people on the bus, the wrong people off  the bus, and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus.” This statement tells us that the selection of the right type of men to lead Masonry is critical and once selected, they should be performing functions that match their skills. The example in Masonry is the brother who is an excellent ritualist appointed to the lodge line who doesn’t have the people skills to lead.

  • Masonry needs to concentrate on leadership skills and not ritual proficiency when selecting leaders.

Stage 2 – Disciplined Thought

The two principles in stage two are “Confronting the Brutal Facts” and the “Hedgehog Concept.”

Confronting the brutal facts to Collins means having an unwavering resolve that you will prevail in the end, all the while understanding the current reality of your situation. The “Hedgehog Concept” is an organizational model that has defined what you can be the best in the world at, what you are deeply passionate about, and what drives your resource engine.

Masonry then, to start the road from good to great, needs to recognize first the brutal facts of our situation; declining membership, less participation, lack of proper leadership and little or no public perception of what we do. Second we should get back to the business of creating Masons and not members.

  • Masonry needs some serious disciplined thought about what we do and what we can be the best in the world at.

Stage 3 – Disciplined Action

The principles controlling the disciplined action should come from a “Culture of Discipline” and “The Flywheel.”

Collins describes an organizational culture in which people do not have jobs they have responsibilities. They are disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought centered on what they have defined they can be the best in the world at.

The “Flywheel” depicts the action necessary; a process that resembles pushing a heavy flywheel constantly building momentum slowly. There is no magic bullet or white knight that rides in to save the organization; it’s just a focused, determined effort constantly heading toward the ultimate goal.

  • Masonry seems to be short on action and needs to develop culture of discipline.

Stage 4 – Building Greatness to Last

The principles here are “Clock Building, Not Time Telling,” and “Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress.”

Clock building is about creating multiple generations of leaders instead of focusing on one particular leader or program. You build programs to stimulate progress not to focus on a particular period of time or leader. “Preserving the Core and Stimulate Progress” is about keeping a clear the distinction between “what we stand for,” which Collins says should never change, and “how we do things,” which he states should never stop changing.

Masonry has made some strides in some lodges that are recognizing the need to building programs that are not specific to one Master and this practice should be encouraged and expanded. On the distinction of “what we stand for” versus “how we do things,” I don’t know if we are doing too well. Change a lot of times is viewed as a dirty word. I think making it clear that when we change things we are not changing what we believe in would start us down the path of meaningful change.

  • Masonry needs to stop the use of the term “My Year,” start building clocks and stop telling time.

I believe this book and its concepts have a lot to offer Masonry. The leaders of Northern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite must have thought the same thing because in the November 2008 edition of The Northern Light they began a series of articles discussing the application of  the “Good To Great” principles to the Scottish Rite.

Jim Collins provides on his website a free, downloadable diagnostic tool to help you get started with the Good To Great framework. You should really take a look at this and be the one to start your lodge and Masonry to go from “Good To Great.”