Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

This is a study on how to build a company that is resilient and exceptional.  It’s one of my favorite books.

The Big Idea: visionary companies have a strong inner core (core purpose, core values) and a willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM BUILT TO LAST

  • 1. Build clocks instead of relying on time tellers.
    • Focus on building organizational intelligence and capabilities rather than relying on a charismatic leader coming up with a great strategy or a great idea.
    • Founders of these visionary companies are builders and architects, not artists or inventors.
    • The company is the creation.
  •  2. People, products, and purpose come before profits.
    • Built-to-last companies are willing to lose some profit margin to fulfill a purpose, not because it will increase long-term shareholder value more (which it might) but because it’s the right thing to do.
    • Profit for the company is like oxygen for the body.  The body needs oxygen to survive but consuming oxygen is not the point of life.
    • Built-to-last companies have very different purposes, but they all had one.
    • These companies indoctrinate new employees into the core ideology and promoted/rewarded based based on employee alignment with the core ideology.
    • Sometimes, these companies were founded with a core ideology.  Sometimes, the core ideology evolved only after the startup phase.
  • 3. Keep the core but be ready to change everything else.
    • Core ideology never changes.  Culture can change.  Strategies usually change. Tactics definitely change.
    • Built-to-last companies are constantly improving and are never satisfied with the status quo.
  • 4. Make sure everything is aligned.
    • Even small processes, decisions, and systems should align with the core.
    • People do notice the little things, so definitely sweat the small stuff.
    • Everything should reinforce everything else to support the core.
    • Decisions that fit the core ideology might often seems crazy from the outside.

HOW TO BECOME A BUILT-TO-LAST COMPANY

  • 1. Set Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG).  Get everyone in the company to buy-in.
  • 2. Develop a cult-like culture that some people love and some people dislike.  Those that love it stick around for a long-time.
  • 3. Try lots of stuff and keep what works. Evolution beats intelligent design.  Failure is okay.  Detailed plans usually fail because circumstances always change.
  • 4. Promote from within. Recruit and develop the next generation of leaders.
  • 5. Always be improving. Develop mechanisms to prevent complacency and status quo. Become a self-improvement machine.