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Guiding Growth: How Vision Keeps Companies on Course
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Guiding Growth: How Vision Keeps Companies on Course [Hardcover]

Mark Lipton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 28, 2003
When it comes to sustained success, vision matters more than strategy. Scores of studies have proven this statement, and millions of business leaders believe it. Yet few executives understand what vision is. They embrace the idea, but ignore the implementation - a disconnect that threatens companies striving for growth in a volatile marketplace. Organizational expert Mark Lipton argues that this "believing-doing" gap exists because today's fast-paced world demands short-term fixes-pressuring executives to make tactical decisions that ultimately create larger strategic problems down the road. But Lipton shows that vision has more substance than leaders think-and that it is an essential factor in building scalable organizations that last for the long haul.Based on extensive research and real-world consulting work with executives implementing the scaling process, "Guiding Growth" provides fresh examples of established and new firms that have developed powerful growth visions. Moving beyond token 'mission statements', Lipton outlines a step-by-step process for establishing an actionable vision, presenting it to the company, and embedding it into the organizational fabric. Illustrating how visions become guiding forces for day-to-day behaviour and overall company direction, "Guiding Growth" reveals how companies can stay their course, even as they grow.Mark Lipton is Founder of the consulting firm Lipton & Co., which specializes in organizational growth. He is Professor of Management and Chair, Human Resources Management and Organizational Change Management at the Milano Graduate School, New School University, in New York City.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Corporate "vision" is one of management theory's less coherent concepts, and this ambitious study attempts to make it a little clearer. Lipton, a management professor and founder of an eponymous consulting firm, argues that growing companies require a vision-a "precise idea of their raison d'etre, strategy and values" that is both inspiring and concrete enough to guide action. His aim herein is to give readers the "nitty-gritty details" of formulating and implementing such a vision. Despite flowcharts, checklists and planning exercises, however, Lipton draws his "vision development process" in strokes that some readers will find too broad-e.g., a company's vision should "describe a future that is more attractive than the present," and its leaders should recognize that diverse viewpoints and debate are essential to vision development. The exemplary vision statements Lipton cites are either blandly generic ("Satisfying all of our stakeholders and achieving our standards is our goal") or spicily generic ("Involve agile, kick-butt teams to strategize, execute, & improve process"). Lipton also covers familiar but laudable ideas from what might be termed the "human potential" school of management, which emphasizes the nurturing of employees' talents and commitment. Drawing on brief case studies of firms like Continental Airlines, 3M, and sportswear maker Oakley (which rewarded one talented worker with a puppy), Lipton encourages businesses to loosen rigid hierarchies, promote egalitarianism, give workers permission to innovate, pay decent wages, avoid layoffs and foster an "almost cult-like" organizational culture. The enthusiastic theorizing about vision may get a bit tiresome, but managers and entrepreneurs will still find much to reflect upon here.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Highly recommended for executives and managers from a variety of functional areas including business unit heads and ‘service lines’. --

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (January 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578517060
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578517060
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #995,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Yippee! No academic psycho-babble, overly complex diagrams, or overly simplistic management fables in this one. "Guiding Growth" is smart, witty, and engaging - a must-read for business leaders concerned about sustainable competitive advantage.
Lipton begins by admitting something few other professor/consultant/authors would ever dare: he was wrong. Convinced that the link between vision and growth was over-rated, that vision statements were just a passing fad, Lipton was surprised when his research proved exactly the opposite. Now, readers can reap the benefits of Lipton's change of heart. In "Guiding Growth," he leads us through the journey of understanding how valuable a clear vision can be when articulated and acted upon in a powerful way.
Mark Lipton's writing voice is passionate and profoundly personal. While this book is well-grounded in research and experience, it is Lipton's use of stories and metaphors that will have a long-lasting effect on you. Yes, he makes you think; more important, he makes you feel something in your heart and in your gut. It is this quality that sets this book apart from other business books.
Be forewarned: the feelings "Guiding Growth" provokes can be very uncomfortable at times. Throughout the early chapters, I stopped often to think and jot down notes about my own vision, my own raison d'etre, as Lipton raised "Why?" questions over and over again. By the end of Chapter 4, I was saying "Yes! Yes! Yes!" as the vision for my work became clearer. Reading Chapter 5 brought tears to my eyes as he described the strong connection between vision and deeply held values based on life experiences.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Perspective of an Entrepreneur January 11, 2003
By A Customer
I was the founder and CEO of a small software company ..., and was approached by a much larger technology company ... . After making an acquisition offer I could not refuse, I sold my business to them and agreed to run it for four years.
If only we had read this book about using vision to guide growth during our transition. Ultimately, the acquisition failed within two years for the buyer. This book offers three components of a well-developed organizational vision: raison d'etre, strategy and values. The buying company never took the time to go beyond a "bumper sticker" for a vision statement. Although it did seem on track with my company's reason for being, there was never an agreement on the strategy. The tension and disagreement (not to mention the time taken) related to these differences effectively crippled my previously highly motivated and productive staff. The key values of the two companies could not have been more different. The centerpiece of our values before acquisition involved doing whatever it took to make our customers happy-most of which had on-going consulting contracts with us. The executive from the buying company literally told my staff that this philosophy was both unnecessary and an expensive luxury.
This book struck a real chord with me because it made it so clear where the gaps were. It obviously would have taken more than a book to convince the buying company to think more carefully through their plan, but having it all documented could've made the upcoming potholes in the road more obvious. And if we had actually implemented an agreed vision, I am sure the business could have continued on its previous success.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vision - beyond the hype March 17, 2003
By A Customer
Reading "Guiding Growth" has been a joy - finally a practical book about vision. Like Lipton, I was suspicious about the whole vision industry, but his book has helped to look at the concept in a different light.
The distinction between the 3 principles - raison d'etre, strategy and values is most insightful (especially since raison d'etre and strategy are often mixed up).
Despite all good intentions, the reality is that the vision process often ends with the communication of a vision statement. Lipton shows how the real impact can go far beyond just an energising event: it is pivotal in guiding and sustaining growth.
In my own experience vision is often treated with more suspicion in Europe than in the US. Lipton's book, however, is as valuable for those who are in charge of building or changing an organisation in the US as in Europe (or any other part of the world) - Guiding Growth goes beyond the hype. It asks some tough questions and invites you to think about how you can unlock the wholehearted commitment of your workforce by providing meaning to the existence of the organization. A must.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a Convert! June 20, 2003
Ah, corporate vision statements. Before reading Guiding Growth I did not put great faith in them. I, as the author, Mark Lipton, was not convinced of the power of corporate visions at the beginning of his research. Visioning to some extent has been a management fad that has come and gone. However Lipton's research finds that for companies who truly have a vision that helps their companies stretch and grow, and is deeply embedded in their organizations; the market returns are demonstrably better.
Vision, in Lipton's model is composed of three elements: raison d'être, strategy and values. In Guiding Growth Whole Foods Market is quoted as saying `our vision statement reflects the hope and intentions of many people. We do not believe it always accurately portrays the way things currently are at Whole Foods market so much as the way would like things to be. It is our dissatisfaction with the current reality, when compared with what is possible, that spurs us toward excellence and toward creating a better, company and world.' Strong stuff indeed. And in ManyWorlds' experience, for many companies the articulation of a vision is often based on their heritage, not to where they want to grow, and not what differentiates them.
Lipton also examines the role of executive groups (not teams) and the alignment of people processes with vision, to bring the vision alive, real and accountable. The book is as much about leadership and organizational culture as it is about growth and vision, which are of course the fruits and seeds of each other, within the organizational greenhouse. He writes, `Organizations rocketing through extended periods of growth. To succeed, they need a combination of all the right ingredients and they must be in near-perfect alignment.
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More About the Author

Mark has been engaged in executive-level organizational consulting for over thirty-five years. He works directly with CEOs and other executives one-on-one, with divisional teams and with entire organizational systems to develop unique solutions for managing growth and facilitating change.

One distinctive characteristic of his approach is the way in which he supports clients' long-term strategy by helping them harness the significant impact of a well-defined and fully-implemented vision. Mark's extensive depth of experience with the often-challenging concept of organizational vision has had an important and positive impact on the sustained growth and lower resistance to organizational change his clients experience.

A sample of recent clients to whom he has provided consulting support include Google, Deloitte, JetBlue, The D.E. Shaw Group, Citibank, Ernst & Young Consulting, Landor Associates, American International Group, NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, The Ford Foundation, UNICEF, UNDP, CARE, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, American Thoracic Society, National Association of Specialty Food Trades, American Heart Association, Statkraft Group (Norway), and U.S. Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (regulators of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), Barnard College, Bank Street College of Education, Stevens Institute of Technology, New York University, and Mass Art Institute.

A Professor of Management, and Chair of Management Programs at the Milano Graduate School of The New School in New York City, he is also Director of The Tenenbaum Leadership Initiative. This highly-focused, executive development program is targeted specifically to avoiding the consequences 'founders dilemma' as founders transition away from the organizations they conceived and nurtured. He has developed executive leadership development programs for global corporations, foreign and domestic governments, non-profits and NGOs, as well as working closely with entrepreneurs as they scale their enterprises. His coaching skills are engaged by C-level executives across all three sectors of the economy.

He holds a Ph.D. from the School of Management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he also taught. Prior to his academic appointments, he held senior management positions in both the corporate and government sectors.

Mark's research and opinions on management and strategy have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, Journal of Management Consulting, Optimize, Executive Excellence, and Organization Development Journal, among others.

Much of his work in executive development with foreign NGOs has been made possible, in part, through grants from the Ford, Rockefeller, Mott and Charles Revson Foundations.

He sits on a number of non-profit boards. Among them: Chairman of the Board of Isabella Geriatric Center, one of country's largest not-for-profit continuum-of-care institutions serving the elderly and disabled in New York City. Advisory Boards: The Austen Riggs Center (Stockbridge, MA) and Achieve Mission (San Francisco, CA).

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