How the Mighty Fall
And Why Some Companies Never Give In
by Jim Collins
How the Mighty Fall at Waterstones

Christmas is coming but it's the book-pile that's getting fat here at CIO Towers where the marble and alabaster are collecting volumes around them as rocks gather moss and lichen.

We recently revisited Robert Sobel's classic When Giants Stumble and Jim Collins's How The Mighty Fall is another take on the question: where did it all go wrong?

The author who scored a hit in 2001 with the survey of companies that excel, entitled Good To Great - examines the reasons for failure, from good old-fashioned hubris to desperation. His conclusion is that much of what makes for failure is self-inflicted.

However, as Collins admits, any such analysis must have grey areas. After all, what is success? Can it be measured? And if so which are pertinent metrics? Lew Platt's steady-as-she-goes reign at HP was seen negatively by many but others now view it as infinitely preferable to the fireworks of the Carly Fiorina regime.

On a more hopeful note, Collins shows that companies - IBM under Lou Gerstner, for example - can quite often regain their elevated positions on the greasy pole that leads to success, even after humiliating slides have taken place. This is an agreeably concise book, rammed with case studies and written with anecdotal flair.

Talking of humiliating slides, how many crisp PowerPoint presentations have you seen spoilt by a speaker doing little more than reading words straight off the screen?