How the mighty fall

Jim Collin's most recent book "How the mighty fall" reads like a playbook of Bermuda's past, present and future.  It's a scarily accurate account of where we are now and where we may well be headed based upon this highly respected author's well researched investigation of the stages great organizations progress through as the go from success to failure.  Should we be heeding his warnings or ignoring them at our own peril?

Businessweek gives a good summary of How the mighty fall including the core "5 stages of decline":


Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.

Only a few years ago people were talking like Bermudians could do anything.  If international business left we wouldn't need to worry because we're innovative and destined for success and would create replacement industries with ease.  We've always succeeded regardless of the struggle and we will again because we're a brilliant and resilient people.  While Bermudians are resilient and brilliant, did we become too entitled in thinking that we could do anything, including pushing international business around, blaming them for our problems and putting onerous requirements upon them to the point that we're seeing jobs leave?  


Stage 2, the Undisciplined Pursuit of More—more scale, more growth, more acclaim, more of whatever those in power see as "success."

We've witnessed incredible growth.   More international business, more companies, more people, more revenues, more, more, more.  The problem is that we were so focused on our success we lost track of the implications of growth.  Where do we house these people?  How can our infrastructure handle it?  Can our people handle it? Can we ensure we're providing great service to our customers?  What happens to construction when all the office buildings come online and demand plummets?  We were too busy with the boom to realize we could be overheating towards bust.


In Stage 3, leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility.

Sound familiar?  Of late we're seeing more and more negative data being spun like it's no big deal.  For the longest time we heard there was no recession, then we heard that Bermuda wouldn't be impacted.  What are we hearing now?  The data is never really that bad is it?  Our budget is just fine.  Job numbers have taken a slight decline, nothing to worry about.  Tourism is on the cusp of reaching that perennial 'platinum period' and international business has nothing bad to say in person, just ignore what they're saying behind the scenes.  The hard numbers tell a different story, but who pays attention to those?


The cumulative peril and/or risks gone bad of Stage 3 assert themselves, throwing the enterprise into a sharp decline visible to all. The critical question is: How does its leadership respond? By lurching for a quick salvation or by getting back to the disciplines that brought about greatness in the first place? Those who grasp for salvation have fallen into Stage 4.  Common "saviors" include a charismatic visionary leader, a bold but untested strategy, a radical transformation, a dramatic cultural revolution, a hoped-for blockbuster product, a "game-changing" acquisition, or any number of other silver-bullet solutions.'

Trips to India?  A massive new pier?  Renovate Port Royal?  Music Festival?  Love Festival?  New Hotels? Gambling?  The list goes on.  We've pursued a great many radical "game-changing" solutions at the hand of our charismatic visionary leader but how many have produced fruit?  How much have we spent vs. seen in visible returns?  Are we really saving ourselves or are we grasping for anything we can hold onto?  Are we throwing our money away on ventures that seem really great on the surface but in reality don't keep us afloat?


The longer a company remains in Stage 4, repeatedly grasping for silver bullets, the more likely it will spira
l downward. In Stage 5, accumulated setbacks and expensive false starts erode financial strength and individual spirit to such an extent that leaders abandon all hope of building a great future. In some cases the company's leader just sells out; in other cases the institution atrophies into utter insignificance; and in the most extreme cases the enterprise simply dies outright.

Our decline is intensifying as we're showing signs of being in stage 4 and prolonging it.  We're grasping for more and more silver bullets as we try to find the next big idea that will fix everything.  We're seeing how our small setbacks, expensive false starts and heavily overspent projects truly are eroding our financial strength.  Our great charismatic and visionary leader has announced many things and yet we still aren't seeing traction from most anything that yields real income vs. money spent.  We're drowning ourselves in debt and are not showing signs that we're taking the steps to save ourselves from destruction.  Will we continue to ignore the signs and fail to make the right moves until the eventual moment where Bermuda as it once was, never is again?

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8 thoughts on “How the mighty fall

  1. Bermuda is going to be paying and cleaning up the Brown stuff for generations
    The silence of PLP members and MP’s says volumes about their hypocrisy and real social consciousness.
    “I got mines, screw you bruthu ”
    lets not forget the real world,far from Ewrat Brown’s Bollywood fantasy
    what about this rock totally dependent on the price of oil for energy & commerce ?
    BRANSON: ‘Oil crunch within 5 years’…
    Britain faces ‘oil crunch’ within five years, Richard Branson warns
    An oil crunch more serious than the financial crisis threatens to strike Britain within five years, Sir Richard Branson and other business leaders have warned.

  2. Your always talking about working on your words and writings.
    Why do you always leave the most crucial to your last sentence.
    Very well said.

  3. Hey Rummy this is the second comment in which you lecture on his writing structure, what are you his fucking English professor?

  4. Rummy,
    Usually these posts are written as streams of consciousness with limited editing and proofreading. I do it to improve my skills as much as I can but also to get posts out more frequently as it can take a ton of time to fit in perfecting things when you’ve got a lot of other things on the go in life.
    I often try to follow a few of the principles I’ve learned over time, though it usually comes with practice more often then not. Some of them come from “Made to stick” such as opening with your most important point first. Keeping it simple. Focus on one core point.
    Often times I drift. As a mentor used to tell me when reading my work, “what were you trying to say? — then why didn’t you say that?”. Another one he used to tell me was that “when you’re done, people won’t remember what you’ve said so much as how you made them feel.” That’s often why I try to end on a strong note.
    Sometimes I fail to make a solid point, sometimes I say far too many things and over complicate. I make a lot of mistakes and feel there is endless improvement to be made. Though, for a kid who consistently got C’s and D’s in english class I figure i’m not doing too bad but always believe I could be doing a lot better.
    Often times when I reread my work some time later it is clear to me how poor it was, what I could have changed here or what I could have changed there. Usually there’s a lot I would have changed, though that used to be one of my biggest problems in school, I was always changing things as it was never good enough.
    Of the utmost, I welcome your criticism and that of others. It helps me see and appreciate how others interpret what I’m trying to say and how well I got the msg across. If you could manage it I would be greatly appreciative if you could be as specific as possible in your criticisms so that I can identify how things could have been better worded, better spelt or better constructed to make a stronger and more cohesive argument.
    As suggested, I’m keen to improve my writing skills and welcome all the help I can get.

  5. AP, there is no need for your approach with profanity. My comments are quite the opposite.
    Dennis talks about writing skills etc. From a laymans point of view (mine) I find his work very well thought out and presented.
    In fact I find his presentation, content, and research shows that his talent reflects years of hard work and I applaud him for that.
    My comment about the last sentence is just that. Nothing overbearing on his summation just straight forward, too the point and easy for one to summise.
    Your reading something that is not there and is typical of most posters these days.
    I am not critical of your skills. I’m complimenting you on them Dennis. Your forum is a good read and I enjoy it.
    Enough said about the subject but I would say that unless your working towards a masters in publishing keep doing what you do. You do it very well.

  6. A leap of faith here. “AP” is that Arthur Pitcher or am I loosing it.
    If so, a great Head Day.
    Thanks Dennis. Few come into your life and make a differance. You Have.

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