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Discovering Your Hedgehog Concept – Your Move To Greatness?

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Feb 4, 2019

good-to-great-Build up to BreakthroughMany consider Good to Great by Jim Collins the seminal book for creating a great business.

If you’ve read Good to Great, one of the inflection points for moving from Good to Great is discovering your Hedgehog Concept.  This visual from Collin’s book emphasizes this moment.

It’s puzzling why so many business leaders feel adamant about the principles in the book, yet few invest time to discover this simplifying concept to make business decisions easier?

More importantly to elevate their business from Good to Great!

  • Is it because so much has changed in the years since Collins wrote Good to Great? (Oct 15, 2001)
  • Have other books replaced it in terms of business principles?
  • Are the disruptive forces in technology, world economy, and VUCA [volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; see The Pace of VUCA-resized-600x330Change Requires Strategic Discipline] requiring different fundamentals than Collins’ study?
  • Or is the time required to clarify a company’s Hedgehog Concept (It took about four years on average for the good-to-great companies to clarify their Hedgehog Concepts.”) too long for business to patiently work toward due to Digital Disruption?


If the latter is true, then Collins caution is important, “Recognize that getting a Hedgehog Concept is an inherently iterative process, not an event. The essence of the process is to get the right people engaged in vigorous dialogue and debate, infused with the brutal facts and guided by questions formed by the three circles.”

It’s my belief, that due to changes in the world, the economy, and VUCA, the Hedgehog Concept is more important to your success than it has ever been.

The world is more complex than ever before. Simple is easier to understand and communicate.

The Hedgehog Concept – Strategic Advisory Council

Collins’ insights to discover your Hedgehog Concept revolves around the forming of a Strategic Advisory Council.

The Council consists of a group of the right people who participate in dialogue and debate guided by the three circles, iteratively and over time, about vital issues and decisions facing the organization.

hedgehog2-resized-600The essence of the process is to get the right people engaged in vigorous dialogue and debate, infused with the brutal facts and guided by questions formed by the three circles.

  • Do we really understand what we can be the best in the world at, as distinct from what we can just be successful at?
  • Do we really understand the drivers in our economic engine, including our economic denominator?
  • Do we really understand what best ignites our passion?

In response to, “How should we go about getting our Hedgehog Concept?” Collins points to this diagram on page 114 and says: “Build the Council, and use that as a model.”

Getting the Hedgehog Concept - An Iterative Process"Ask the right questions, engage in vigorous debate, make decisions, autopsy the results, and learn—all guided within the context of the three circles. Just keep going through that cycle of understanding.”

When asked, “How do we accelerate the process of getting a Hedgehog Concept?” Collins responded: “Increase the number of times you go around that full cycle in a given period of time.”

Collins also advised and cautioned, “If you go through this cycle enough times, guided resolutely by the three circles, you will eventually gain the depth of understanding required for a Hedgehog Concept. It will not happen overnight, but it will eventually happen.”

BE-CI Strategic Advisory Councillogo-beci

Last Thursday, In Nashville, Tennessee, where my customer BE-CI recently opened a new office, a group of 5 BE-CI employees  met to begin the process of cycling through the Hedgehog Concept as well as discovering the vital issues and decisions facing the organization.

Judging by the success of that meeting, I’m confident many productive ideas and discoveries will be forthcoming.  The council plans to meet monthly.  Coincidently these meetings will take place just ahead of the leadership teams monthly and quarterly meetings.

GI_infografika_7-Strata-Of-Strategy_yellowOne of my assignments as facilitator of the group is to help the leadership team in the discovery of BE-CI’s Seven Strata of Strategy.  In BE-CI’s 2019 Annual Plan, their objectives are:

  • 7 Strata of Strategy – All Steps Completed – MFF (12/31/19)
    • One Phrase Strategy – (03/31/19)
    • Profit Per-X – (06/30/19)
    • Sandbox – (09/30/19)
    • BHAG – (12/31/19)

The Strategic Advisory Council’s task this first meeting included understanding what the One Phrase Strategy is, and to make recommendations to the Leadership team on what BE-CI’s One Phrase Strategy is.

power-of-the-one-phrase-strategy-gazellesIf you’re struggling to understand what the One Phrase Strategy is, and why it’s important visit:

Support Your One-PHRASE Strategy - Differentiating Actions, and

One Phrase Strategy – Seven Strata of Strategy.

Download Verne's One Phrase Strategy PDF

A value of this Advisory Team is their proximity to the front lines.  They’re in touch with customers, what differentiates BE-CI, and where BE-CI struggles with customers.

It didn’t take very long for the team to rally around one idea they feel stands out with customers from their competitors.

At the leadership’s monthly meeting on Friday I shared these ideas.  The leadership team found their ideas very compelling.  We plan to proceed exploring this and making a decision by our next meeting.

Is your business interested in making the leap from Good to Great?

Have you made efforts to form a Strategic Advisory Council?

Is now the time to do so?

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Next Blog - How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

Sprint-Your-Ideas-To-Success_Problem-Solving-and-Product-DevelopmentIt’s called a Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days. It’s a book by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.  If you’ve ever had a problem or wanted to discover whether an idea for a new product or service would work quickly, the Sprint, developed by three partners at Google Ventures, is proven process to achieve it.  One revelation?  Brainstorming is not the best way to develop ideas.  More revelations, next blog.

Topics: Good to Great, Jim Collins, Hedgehog Concept, One Phrase Strategy, Strategic Advisory Council

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

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