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Built To Last: Successful Habits Of Visionary Companies

by Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Collins
  • Publishing date: 11/2004
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0060566108

Synopsis

"This is not a book about charismatic visionary leaders. It is not about visionary product concepts or visionary products or visionary market insights. Nor is it about just having a corporate vision. This is a book about something far more important, enduring, and substantial. This is a book about visionary companies." So write Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in this groundbreaking book that shatters myths, provides new insights, and gives practical guidance to those who would like to build landmark companies that stand the test of time.

Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Collins and Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies -- they have an average age of nearly one hundred years and have outperformed the general stock market by a factor of fifteen since 1926 -- and studied each company in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day -- as start-ups, as midsize companies, and as large corporations. Throughout, the authors asked: "What makes the truly exceptional companies different from other companies?"

What separates General Electric, 3M, Merck, Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard, Walt Disney, and Philip Morris from their rivals? How, for example, did Procter & Gamble, which began life substantially behind rival Colgate, eventually prevail as the premier institution in its industry? How was Motorola able to move from a humble battery repair business into integrated circuits and cellular communications, while Zenith never became dominant in anything other than TVs? How did Boeing unseat McDonnell Douglas as the world's best commercial aircraft company -- what did Boeing have that McDonnell Douglas lacked?

By answering such questions, Collins and Porras go beyond the incessant barrage of management buzzwords and fads of the day to discover timeless qualities that have consistently distinguished out-standing companies. They also provide inspiration to all executives and entrepreneurs by destroying the false but widely accepted idea that only charismatic visionary leaders can build visionary companies.

Filled with hundreds of specific examples and organized into a coherent framework of practical concepts that can be applied by managers and entrepreneurs at all levels, Built to Last provides a master blueprint for building organizations that will prosper long into the twenty-first century and beyond.


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  • A Must Read Together With Good To Great
    From Amazon

    I enjoyed reading this book very much. It seems the company and the organization as an organic system within a larger system, and which purpose is not simply to make money (although, companies managed this way always do). It brings also the importance of the human side into management and how important it is to have a solid system of core values, beliefs, principles and mission. I highly recommended together with Good To Great, even in spite of the fact that some of the covered companies (like Ford, Sony, and Motorola) not being able to keep their greatness consistently.

  • Stick to your core values!
    From Amazon

    The authors spent six years studying visionary companies to see what accounts for their success. Their goal: to uncover the underlying factors that helped the visionary companies outperform the competition.

    The authors chose eighteen visionary companies for their book: 3M; American Express; Boeing; Citicorp; Ford; General Electric; Hewlett-Packard; IBM; Johnson & Johnson; Marriott; Merck; Motorola; Nordstrom; Philip Morris; Procter & Gamble; Sony; Wal-Mart; and Walt Disney. These are the premier organizations in their field; firms that have a long record of having an impact on the world. They have distinguished themselves as a special and elite breed of institution. And, with an average founding date of 1897, and stock-return performance of fifteen times the general market since 1926, they are companies that have stood the test of time.

    Some of the main factors for success were: To preserve the values that set your company apart from others; to set audacious goals; and to experiment freely.

    The authors use the following analogy: Suppose you read of a person who could tell the exact time just by looking at the position of the sun or stars. "It's April 23, 1996, 2:36 A.M." Wow, you'd think. What a remarkable person. Yet wouldn't it be more remarkable--and useful for the world--if that person built a clock that anyone could refer to, even after the clockmaker had died? Having a great idea, or being a charismatic, visionary leader is like "time telling." Building a company that's healthy long after the visionary leader is gone, or after the great product is passé, is "clock building."

    Visionary company founders concentrate first on the organization's systems and values, then on products. In fact, you don't need a great product idea to begin. William Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett- Packard, for instance, had no product in mind when they got together in 1937. They just wanted to start a company together. Early products included a bowling foul-line indicator, a clock drive for a telescope, and a device to make a urinal flush automatically. They persisted until they figured out how to build a firm that could pump out great products. Likewise, Masaru Ibuka didn't have a single product in mind when he launched Sony in 1945. The company survived selling heating pads. Paul Galvin, Motorola's founder, didn't dream about making battery eliminators for radios, its first product. He dreamed foremost about building a great and lasting company. He did that by developing people. He encouraged dissent, discussion, and disagreement, and he gave people freedom to make contributions. He set challenges and gave people responsibility to achieve them.

    Here are some interesting notes I took:

    Though many visionary companies have had high-profile leaders like Henry Ford or Sam Walton, charismatic leadership is not necessary for success. 3M, for example, has never had a charismatic CEO.

    The firm is not a vehicle for products or personalities; products are a vehicle for the company. Looked at in that light, Walt Disney's greatest creation wasn't Snow White or Disneyland, it's the Disney Company and its ability to make people happy.

    Purposes are your organization's fundamental reasons for existing beyond making money. They are broad and enduring. For example, Robert W. Johnson founded Johnson & Johnson "to alleviate pain and suffering." Purposes are not about specific products or services. The Disney Company doesn't exist to "make cartoons for kids," for example. It exists to "use our imaginations to bring happiness to millions." Asked whether he started Marriott Corporation to create an empire, J. Willard Marriott, Sr., said no. He wanted to give friendly service to guests, provide good food at a fair price, and work hard to make a profit to create more jobs.

    Merck has long used its values to guide its actions. For example, it once developed a drug called Mectizan to cure a Third World disease known as "river blindness." While it hoped to sell the drug to government and relief agencies, the return on investment would be small. When it came time to sell Mectizan, however, no one bought it. So Merck gave the drug away to the millions who needed it. This was good public relations that could pay off down the road. But it was also because the company has never forgotten George Merck's words: "We try never to forget that medicine is for people. It's not for the profits. The profits follow . . ."

    To come up with a purpose, ask: What is our reason for being? What would be lost if we ceased to be?

    Boeing's core value, "being in the leading edge of aviation; being pioneers" is permanent. Whatever your business, strategy and tactics, operations, culture, and products are they must change over time. The only thing that shouldn't change is core ideology. When Eastern Airlines said it needed a jet with precise specifications, Boeing took on the challenge. The plane had to land on runway 4-22 at La Guardia Airport in New York, a notoriously short runway. This jet also had to be able to fly non-stop to Miami without refueling, seat six abreast, and hold 131 passengers. Most agreed this was an impossible task. Boeing met the challenge with its 727. It succeeded because, once it got going, it had no other choice. Such goals are always aligned with a Boeing core value: to be on the leading edge of aviation.

    Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing's initial idea, to mine corundum, failed, and the company searched desperately for something to do. 3M settled on sandpaper and grinding wheels, which kept it afloat. Such troubles led CEO William McKnight to insist on diversifying. But rather than chart the course himself, he built an organization that would continually change based on the initiative of employees. McKnight hired good people, let them alone to do their work, and encouraged experimentation. The result was many unplanned, successful products. For example, 3M employee Dick Drew was visiting an auto paint shop when he saw a problem to solve. Two-toned paint jobs had become popular, but shops had trouble separating the two colors. Drew went to work and came up with a solution: masking tape. Five years later, he used his experience to develop Scotch tape. Note that 3M hadn't planned to get into tape, now a huge part of its business. It was an outgrowth of the organization McKnight created.

    Visionary companies don't ask, "How well are we doing?" They ask, "How can we do better tomorrow than we did today?" This question requires constant self-criticism and investment in the future for a race with no finish line.

    Motorola has used an "innovate or die" technique. It has been known to cut off mature product lines that still account for significant sales volume in order to keep innovating.

    Boeing uses a process called "eyes of the enemy." It assigns managers the task of developing strategy as though they worked for a competitor and wanted to wipe Boeing off the map. What weaknesses would they exploit? What markets could they invade? Boeing then figures out how it would respond to each threat.

    A visionary company is like a great work of art--magnificent in detail, with all elements working together in concert.

  • Built to Last will Last forever
    From Amazon


    Briefly, Although this book was written some years back;yet it is still strongly valid and valuable for today's business cases.

  • A Classic
    From Amazon

    "Built to Last" is an enlightening and interesting classic on business strategic management. The authors, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras spent six years in research and compared the practices of 18 visionary companies in the USA to those of a matched set of good, though not great, companies. Their fundamental observation is that average companies are driven by the power of "or:" You can have either short term profits OR long term growth, either stability OR progress. Visionary companies, in contrast, embrace the power of "and:" You preserve the core AND stimulate progress.

    The authors then methodically, step-by-step proceed to explain how great companies erect structures that embrace these seemingly contradictory goals. The great companies the authors studied, contrary to conventional wisdom, are not profit focused at their core but rather, they are `value' focused. These values are a sort of nucleus, around which leaders in visionary companies grow the company. This was the case in such great companies as Disney, Wal-Mart, Merck, Ford, Hewlett Packard, 3M, Johnson and Johnson and others.

    Among the core myths that Collins and Porras shattered are that visionary companies must start with a great product and be pushed into the future by charismatic leaders. Instead the great visionary companies they studied were characterized by total lack of an initial business plan or key idea and by remarkably self-effacing leaders. The authors are much more impressed with the great companies' almost cult-like devotion to a "core ideology" or identity, and active indoctrination of employees into "ideological commitment" to the company.

    The book is interesting to read, is humorous, is among the best, easiest to follow guide to strategic management. The book also provides guidelines to help managers at all levels to apply the concepts. It is well written with compelling case studies. I highly recommend the book to those looking for a practical down-to-earth book that is readable and useful.

  • Identity is Built to Last
    From Amazon

    It is interesting to review a business book more than 10 years after it has been labeled a best seller - is it still relevant today? Yes, in the case of this classic! The lessons conveyed are as useful today, as they were when it was first published. No surprise, given what the authors set out to discover when they began their research: What distinguishes long-time, high performing companies from their competitors? Their key concept about what it takes to build a visionary company - "preserve the core and stimulate progress" seems to be a fundamental truth about the evolutionary nature of free markets. Certainly their, "Try Lots of Stuff and Keep What Works" and "Good Enough Never Is", lessons sound like evolutionary processes of adaptation.

    The key concept might be more simply described by saying, "Maintain your identity - core values & purpose - while focusing on a living performance vision." That makes it a personal concept as well as an organizational concept - not a bad thing when you consider that any organization is a collection of people. When something makes sense for the individual and the organization, perhaps there-in resides the reason it is a long-term winner! Dennis DeWilde, Author of The Performance Connection

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