How the Mighty Fall – Part 4

“Grasping for Salvation.” That’s how Jim Collins describes the forth stage of decline in his book, How the Mighty Fall. “Stage 4 begins when an organization reacts to a downturn by lurching for a silver bullet.” Collins asserts that the organizations in stage 4 of decline exemplify a series of behaviors including:


  • Pinning hopes on unproven strategies
  • Seeking a big “game changing” acquisition to transform the company in a single stroke
  • Making panicky, desperate moves in reaction to threats that can imperil the company even more, draining cash and further eroding financial strength
  • Embarking on a program of radical change, a revolution, to transform or upend nearly every aspect of the company, jeopardizing or abandoning core strengths
  • Selling people on the promise of a brighter future to compensate for poor results
  • Destroying momentum with chronic restructuring and/or a series of inconsistent big decisions
  • Searching for a leader-as-savior, with a bias for selecting a visionary from the outside who’ll ride in and galvanize the company

This unending search for the silver bullet inevitably leads to frantic activity as new programs, fads, strategies, visions, values, cultures, breakthroughs, acquisitions and saviors are sought or implemented. Interestingly, Collins notes, “The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.” He further asserts, “Most ‘overnight success’ stories are about twenty years in the making.”

When an organization is in stage 4 decline, panic and desperation frequently set in which, in turn, leads to poor decision-making, which in turn accelerates the companies demise. Collins makes a clear case for remaining focused and says, “Leaders atop companies in the late stages of decline need to get back to a calm, clear-headed, and focused approach. If you want to reverse decline, be rigorous about what not do do….Breathe. Calm yourself. Think. Focus. Aim. Take one shot at a time.

Questions: Which of the behaviors above do you find yourself engaging in within your church, ministry, or organization? Have you been searching for a “silver bullet”? What must you do to focus?