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Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies Hardcover – November 2, 2004
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Built to Last identifies 18 "visionary" companies and sets out to determine what's special about them. To get on the list, a company had to be world famous, have a stellar brand image, and be at least 50 years old. We're talking about companies that even a layperson knows to be, well, different: the Disneys, the Wal-Marts, the Mercks.
Whatever the key to the success of these companies, the key to the success of this book is that the authors don't waste time comparing them to business failures. Instead, they use a control group of "successful-but-second-rank" companies to highlight what's special about their 18 "visionary" picks. Thus Disney is compared to Columbia Pictures, Ford to GM, Hewlett Packard to Texas Instruments, and so on.
The core myth, according to the authors, is that visionary companies must start with a great product and be pushed into the future by charismatic leaders. There are examples of that pattern, they admit: Johnson & Johnson, for one. But there are also just too many counterexamples--in fact, the majority of the "visionary" companies, including giants like 3M, Sony, and TI, don't fit the model. They were characterized by total lack of an initial business plan or key idea and by remarkably self-effacing leaders. Collins and Porras are much more impressed with something else they shared: an almost cult-like devotion to a "core ideology" or identity, and active indoctrination of employees into "ideologically commitment" to the company.
The comparison with the business "B"-team does tend to raise a significant methodological problem: which companies are to be counted as "visionary" in the first place? There's an air of circularity here, as if you achieve "visionary" status by ... achieving visionary status. So many roads lead to Rome that the book is less practical than it might appear. But that's exactly the point of an eloquent chapter on 3M. This wildly successful company had no master plan, little structure, and no prima donnas. Instead it had an atmosphere in which bright people were both keen to see the company succeed and unafraid to "try a lot of stuff and keep what works." --Richard Farr --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Randy L. Abbott, Univ. of Evansville Lib., Ind.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Here is a look at each of the twelve myths and a sound byte describing each:
1. It takes a great idea to start a company Few visionary companies started with a great idea. Many companies started without any specific ideas (HP and Sony) and others were outright failures (3M). In fact a great idea may lead to road of not being able to adapt.
2. Visionary companies require great and charismatic visionary leaders A charismatic leader in not required and, in fact, can be detrimental to a company's long-term prospects.
3. The most successful companies exist first and foremost to maximize profits Not true. Profit counts, but is usually not at the top of the list.
4. Visionary companies share a common subset of "correct" core values They all have core values, but each is unique to a company and it's culture.
5. The only constant is change The core values can and often do last more then 100 years.
6. Blue-chip companies play it safe They take significant bet the company risks.
7. Visionary companies are great places to work, for everyone These companies are only great places to work if you fit the vision and culture.
8. Highly successful companies make some of their best moves by brilliant and complex strategic planning. They actually try a bunch of stuff and keep what works.
9.Read more ›
Porras and Collins set out to write a book about visionary companies, and they did just that. They chose the companies they would study based on specific, detailed criteria.
They wanted to study companies that had been premier institutions in their industries and widely admired while they made an imprint on the world around them. They wanted their companies to have multiple generations of chief executives and to have gone through multiple product or service lifecycles. And they wanted the companies to have been around for a long time - founded before 1950.
They compared each of their visionary companies with another company that was not a premier visionary company. Many of the comparison companies were solid performers. They were good companies, but not great companies. That's one of the great things about the book. You can see the distinction between good performance and great performance.
Another thing that makes the book great is the extensive research. The project took six years, and the authors and their research team dug into critical issues and came up with fascinating insights and comparisons.
Read this book and you will learn about the characteristics of great companies that have an impact on the world around them. The discussions will enrich your understanding of what makes a great company. This will be especially valuable to you if you're in the process of building a company that you want to be great.
That's the great part, the hero part. What about the flaws?Read more ›
What separates "Built to Last" is that each visionary company (3M, HP, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart...) is contrasted with a comparison company founded in the same time, in the same industry, with similar founding products and markets (Norton, TI, Colgate, Ames...). Perhaps what I found most intriguing were some of the twelve "shattered myths" they go on to counter throughout the book:
1. It takes a great idea to start a great company
2. Visionary companies require great and charismatic visionary leaders
3. Visionary companies share a common subset of "correct" core values
4. Highly successful companies make their best moves by brilliant and complex strategic planning
5. The most successful companies focus primarily on beating the competition
As a current business student with a summer internship in a "visionary company," I was amazed as their careful analysis rang true. This is one book I can highly recommend to any student, professional, or business educator looking for those not-so-subtle traits that characterize a truly visionary company.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bought this book used after hearing a motivational speaker reference this book. The seller shipped this in record time and the book itself is a great read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Lauren
This is the prequel for Built to last......... these are both must reads for anyone wishing to grow in their organizational skills in the business world.Published 2 months ago by David S.
My wife and I each own small businesses and I am growing 2HIRE.US to hopefully out live me by another 100 years. I started with reading Tim's book "Good to Great". Read morePublished 3 months ago by Keith Kelchner
As a manager in a large company that is trying to reinvent itself, I found many parallels to both the visionary and non-visionary examples. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book is as relevant today  as when it was written . Cuts through all the bull in management theory and studies exemplar companies and how they are run. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bruce Birnberg
I've just finished reading the main four books by Jim Collins: Built to Last; Good to Great; How the Mighty Fall; and Great By Choice. Read morePublished 5 months ago by David G. Kent