Many people have read and been inspired by Good to Great, a fantastic book which presents principles which can help an organization move from mediocre to successful. Another remarkable book by Jim Collins which is too often overlooked is Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (click here for a free book summary).
A visionary company stands the test of time and endures the hardships and leadership transitions which often derail other companies. By comparing visionary companies with good companies in the same industry (American Express and Wells Fargo, Ford and GM, Walt Disney and Columbia, etc.), Collins and Jerry Porras discovered how to create a visionary company. Here are some of the principles:
1. Clock Building, Not Time Telling – more concerned with long-term health and effectiveness rather than just a short-term payoff
2. Genius of the AND (No “Tyranny of the OR”) – “the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time” such as pursuing profit AND purpose, conservative at the core AND willing to risk, Big Hairy Audacious Goals and incremental progress
3. Core Ideology – “Core values are the organization’s essential and enduring tenets, not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term expediency.” Profitability is seen as necessary for survival but not the goal or purpose of visionary companies.
4. **Preserve the Core/Stimulate Progress – the essence of a visionary company
“If an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except its basic beliefs.” Thomas J. Watson
Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs), trying a lot of stuff and keeping what works, plus a mindset that “good enough never is” all stimulate progress.
“Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory, nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1899.
Cult-like cultures and home-grown management preserve the core.
5. Alignment may be the most important principle in the entire book. Alignment means “all the elements of a company work together in concert within the context of the company’s core ideology and the type of progress it aims to achieve.”
As we say alot at Mosaic – it is just as important who and what we say “no” to as who and what we say “yes” to.