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April 30, 2012 Blog 1 min read

In his book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins asks the question, “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?” It’s a tough question, to be sure, and one that took Collins nine years of rigorous research to answer. In the end, it comes down to a handful of best practices, many of which are contrary to conventional wisdom.

What struck me most, however, was a concept Collins calls “SMaC”—Specific, Methodical, and Consistent. A SMaC recipe is a “set of durable operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula; it is clear and concrete, enabling the entire enterprise to unify and organize its efforts, giving clear guidance regarding what to do and what not to do.” Plante Moran’s SMaC recipe is our strategic plan, which we refine periodically. What’s interesting—and reflective of Collins’ findings—is that while we do update the plan, there are significant components of it that remain the same. Collins writes that successful companies have “fanatic discipline” (for sticking to the plan) and “productive paranoia” (for sensing necessary changes).

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Although my “a-ha” moments were more reinforcing than revelatory, it was a good exercise to think about how Plante Moran measures up against the success stories in the book. I would recommend it to anyone who shares Collins’ curiosity in determining what makes some companies successful during chaotic times while others flounder.

What about you? Have you read the book? What were your key takeaways? What is your SMaC recipe?