Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Key Concepts to Being a Visionary Company

Recently, I wrote how this summer I have been rereading the book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras. The foundation of the book revolves around four key concepts:

1. Be a clock builder -an architect- not a time teller.

2. Embrace the “Genius of the AND”

3. Preserve the core/stimulate progress.

4. Seek consistent alignment.

Back in 1994 when this was published, these were progressive concepts and they had everyone in executive offices thinking and talking. Furthermore, most of the same leaders were still processing the key material in the books, In Search of Excellence and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It was an exciting time for all involved.

Now in the summer of 2011, the above four concepts seem pretty simplistic, if not old news. Nevertheless, upon further inspection and further reading in the book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. . . and Others Don't, HarperBusiness, 2001, Collins states something that is very important and often missed. As he writes, “When I consider the enduring great companies from Built To Last, I now see substantial evidence that their early leaders followed the good-to-great framework. The only real difference is that they did so as entrepreneurs in small, early-stage enterprises trying to get off the ground, rather than as CEOs trying to transform established companies from good to great. In an ironic twist, I now see Good to Great not as a sequel to Built to Last, but as a prequel. Apply the findings in this book [Good to Great] to create sustained great results, as a start-up or an established organization, and then apply the findings in Built to Last to go from great results to an enduring great company.”

For many leaders in many different companies, the good-to-great framework is being put in place in a careful and thoughtful manner. Concepts like “who before what,” “confront the brutal facts,” and “ the flywheel vs. the doom loop” are all being explored and implemented. But from my perspective, more executives need to reread Built to Last because once the great results start happening and once there are regular short term wins, then all executives need to implement the above four key concepts from Built to Last in order to make the results consistent over time.

Our challenge this summer is to think beyond today and tomorrow. We need to think long term and study the above four concepts and then rigorously apply them throughout our organizations. Given the current economy, we need more people and companies positioning themselves for becoming an “enduring great company.” Now is the time to learn so we can constantly improve in the future.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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