Built To Last
By Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
Build to Last is a book written by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, both professors at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. After conducting a study of “visionary” companies that have lasted more than 50 years, wrote this book on their findings detailing the properties that these
companies share that made them so extraordinary.
Some, but not all, of the visionary companies that they studied include 3M, American Express, Boeing, Citicorp, Ford, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Marriot, Merck, Motorola, Nordstrom, Phillip Morris, Proctor & Gamble, Sony, Wal-Mart and Disney.
In this book review, we will outline key principles the book describes in detail. In reading this post and the book itself, one can derive huge amounts of value for themselves in their business, sport, organization or even their personal life.
1) Truly great business leaders mainly put their focus on building the company, including having great systems, ideology and people development. The idea here is that the companies that have enjoyed decades of success are not driven by one leader who causes the success of the company, but the visionary companies are built so it is the company, not the leader of the company, that is the main driver of the organization’s success.
2) The visionary companies are not driven by money and profits. Their main focus is beyond money and profits and are propelled by making a serious, lasting and impactful contributions to the world. The visionary companies exist for a reason beyond profits and have profits be a by-product of the fulfilling this purpose. Profits allow them to keep contributing to the world. This view, in the end, makes more money away.
3) The authors of the book are very much for keeping very few things in an organization the same for long periods of time due to their findings. They assert that only one thing in a company should never change at all, which is its core ideology. They further break core ideology down to a company’s mission or purpose, and its core values. Everything beyond this, is malleable.
Core Purpose – the big thing that the company is up to, what it is fulfilling in the world.
Core Values – the guiding principles
of a company, what it stands for.
4) Visionary companies have what the authors call Big Hairy Audacious
Goals (BHAGs for short). A BHAG is an enormous goal that many of the visionary companies had in common. These goals are not just one or two years out, but more like 25 years out. They serve as a future for everyone in the company to be working towards that inspires people and creates cohesion within the company. Examples include become number one or two in all of your market areas, or take over the market share of commercial jets. Collins and Porras stress
that one danger of a BHAG is that once it is reached, a new one must be created.
5) Visionary companies have extremely strong cultures. These cultures are so strong that the authors refer to them as “cult-like.” Each and every employee buys into the culture, and those who do not quickly find themselves not fitting in at the company, like all of a sudden adding vinegar into a cup of water. The example used for such a culture is Nordstrom, with its strong culture of customer service.
6) Another commonality among the companies studied was they have
“home-grown management.” This means that managers and leaders of the company are promoted from within the company, opposed to hired from the outside. For a company to be able to provide this for itself, it must have a strong internal management development program. The authors use Jack Welch of General Electric as an example, who started working at GE straight
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out of college and worked his way up the company to CEO.
7) The last quality of a visionary company the book presents is that “good is never enough.” What this means is that there is never an end or a place that is good enough for a visionary company. They never allow themselves to sit back and get comfortable, rather they keep working and moving forward.
Built to Last is an excellent book, and well worth
reading to implement in ones own company as an access to produce extraordinary results.