Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review: Built to Last

Built to Last-Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras delves into the success of Eighteen companies. The project was started at Stanford University Graduate School of Business and analyzed what made companies successful from the stages of start-up, midsize, and large corporations. It is about those visionary companies that have made significant impact on the lives of their workers and the environment in which they exist. These companies contained a number of criteria that includes: 

-Premier institution in the industry;
-Widely admired by knowledgeable business people;
-Made an indelible imprint on the world;
-Had multiple generations of chiefs;
-Been through multiple product cycles;
-Founded before 1950

The authors discovered some interesting findings. Great companies often start out slower than other companies but win in the longer term. Most of the companies focused on building the proper infrastructure and foundations for future development. Great companies don’t exist to only make money but instead develop out of sound objectives and visions. They have a purpose to exist beyond money. The ideologies that successful companies foster are a component of how deeply within the organization they go. The deeper the values are embedded the more likely success will be found. Even though the processes and procedures change the core values do not change leading to stability of purpose.

Such companies are not afraid to make bold moves when necessary. These are not careless moves but well thought out and planned. They often select candidates that fit within their culture and ideology to achieve those moves. Often the leaders and staff are willing to experiment and find new ways of doing routine things. Sometimes they are successful and other times they fail. They often promote their CEO’s from inside the company to develop the proper skills and culture over time. Instead of trying to beat the competition visionary companies compete against themselves.  They are willing to balance between growth and stability. They were one of the first companies to adopt vision statements. 

The chapters highlight the concepts above. There is considerable discussion on each of their chosen companies and the details of what made them successful. Likewise, managers should find some practical advice such as how to develop their vision statements. The language is written at a college level or slightly above. It is not a casual read but neither is it full of scientific jargon. It is a book that managers, directors and executives should read in order to have a better perspective of their own business. 

Collins, J. & Porras, J. (2002). Built to Last. NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-051640-2

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