Friday, May 23, 2008

Built to Last

I just finished a book called "Built to Last" by Jim Collins and Jerry Poras. The main idea behind the book is looking into what makes organizations last for generations. They studied several "visionary" companies and compared them to other companies that started around the same time but didn't have the same level of success. They wanted to figure out what qualities separated a visionary company from the rest.

Here are some of the ideas that I took away from the book.

Time Teller vs. Clock Builder- Before there were such things as clocks, if there was a person who could look at the sun and always know what time it was, that would have been pretty cool. People would always be asking him what time it was, and would wait in awe to hear the answer. The only problem is, what happens when the time teller dies? His gift dies with him. On the other hand, what if someone built a clock so that anyone who looked at it could tell time? When the clock builder passed away, people would still be able to know what time it was. How does this relate to organizations? They found that the processes were more important than the personalities in the companies they studied.

Preserve the Core AND Stimulate Progress- Visionary companies have a distinct set of core values that they live by. But they don't preserve the core at the expense of being progressive. Rather, they preserve the core and stimulate progress at the same time. Just doing one or the other will not lead to lasting success. However, it's not a matter of balance between the two but wholeheartedly embracing both at the same time.

BHAG'S- I first heard this term when I was having lunch with Jeb, but this book is where the phrase began. BHAG's are Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. These are goals that seem impossible. Goals that would take years to attain. But these are also goals that organizations can rally around. Visionary organizations continue to set new BHAG's when they achieve the goals originally set. One instance of a BHAG achieved but not built upon was Henry Ford's Model T. He wanted to make the automobile affordable for the masses. This seemed unthinkable at the time, but he accomplished it. Unfortunately for him, General Motors took it one step further and eventuallly surpassed Ford's accomplishments.

Although this book was originally written in the mid-90's, I thought that it was still very relevant for today. Recommended.


Lee said...

Good post...I read Built to Last a few yrs ago, but forgot about the BHAG's. I guess I am in the middle of one now with I'll visit your blog more often now that I know about it. God bless!

c.w. goad said...

This sounds like a great book. I'll be picking up a copy. Thanks for sharing.


Anonymous said...

Hey Mark, It is a great book... I have started Good To Great by the same author a while back... but haven't finished. I read half a dozen books at a time and it takes me a long time to finish them... but then is it about finishing a book or getting something out of what you have read :-)

Two points I would throw in to your list of takeaways are:

1) Today many of those companies if reviewed now would not necessarily make the list anymore - the reason? They stopped doing the things that got them there in the first place... that is the challenge isn't it...knowing what to cut out and what to keep... this has a huge application to a growing church and ever increasing programs. The book Simple Church (which I am sure you have read) brings out this in a great way... after the challenge of choosing the "right" things to do - the next challenge is to be able to actually keep doing those things effectively... now that is a BHAG !!

2)The ultimate challenge in the whole "time teller vs. clockbuilder" concept is not to get so busy making clocks - that you forget why a clock is needed... i.e. don't forget about the purpose of the clock - - which is "telling time"...
I remember when Swiss watch had the chance to make the original LED digital watches in the 1970s - they decided to pass instead of own that technology, because of the perceived risk to their mechanical watch business - they thought it would cannibalize their prominent marketshare - then a small no-name company called Texas Instruments bought the technology and changed the whole paradigm of what a watch is ... (I know you had to have had a calculator watch like I did!) The Swiss watch company lost out on a huge business opportunity... because they were so busy making clocks, they forgot the purpose is to help people tell time! Apple has done such a magnificent job of launching out with new products that solve needs for people they didn't notice they even had. There are a lot of companies (and churches) still trying to make the Best "8Track / VCR Combo" unit in the world - when the world has moved on to totally different ways of enjoying audio/video... we can't forget we are "telling time"with our clocks!

Dunder-Mifflin's slogan says it best "...Limitless paper in a paperless world!..." how utterly offbase is that....lololol

Lord help us all to not end up like that... :-)