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Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies [Paperback]

James Collins , Jerry Porras
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Sep 2000
Built to Last examines 18 exceptional and long-lasting companies, including General Electric, Boeing, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and Proctor & Gamble, and compared each with one of its closest but less successful competitors, in order to discover exactly what has given it the edge over its rivals.Companies need two basic things to beat the competition: a guiding philosophy and a challenging mission. Built to Last provides a blueprint for success for companies around the world, who can learn how to succeed in a ruthlessly competitive environment. The new chapter takes a much-needed look at what the future may hold for Internet companies.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Business Books; 3rd Revised edition edition (7 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071266968X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712669689
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.4 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

This analysis of what makes great companies great has been hailed everywhere as an instant classic and one of the best business titles since In Search of Excellence. The authors, James C Collins and Jerry I Porras, spent six years in research, and they freely admit that their own preconceptions about business success were devastated by their actual findings--along with the preconceptions of virtually everyone else.

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 counter-examples--in fact, the majority of the "visionary" companies, including giants such as 3M, Sony, and TI, don't fit the model. They were characterised 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

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vision = Core Ideology + Envisioned Future 30 Nov 2002
James Collins is a management researcher from Boulder (Colorado, USA) and Jerry Porras is a professor of organizational behavior and change at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. This book is really split up into three parts: (1) An introduction into the research.; (2) The core ideology of visionary companies.; (3) The habits of visionary companies; (4) Methods for implementation.
The authors explain their research methods of this six-year research project into visionary companies. "Visionary companies are premier institutions - the crown jewels - in their industries, widely admired by their peers and having a long track record of making a significant impact on the world around them." The authors used the term 'visionary', rather than just 'successful' or 'enduring', to reflect the fact they have distinguished themselves as a very special and elite breed of institutions. In order to compose these visionary companies the authors started with a set of criteria which those companies had to meet: (1) Premier institution in its industry; (2) widely admired by knowledgeable businesspeople; (3) made an indelible imprint on the world in which we live; (4) had multiple generations of chief executives; (5) been through multiple product (or service) life cycles; (6) founded before 1950. With these criteria in mind the authors select 18 visionary companies from a wide range of industries, plus 18 comparison companies (which are not weak or bad companies either).
So what do these visionary companies have in common? They have core ideologies consisting of more than a bunch of nice-sounding platitudes.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the few business books with a lifespan 23 July 2003
This is a business book that has "legs". Contains some classic concepts (BHAGs...) and explodes some great myths. A book to return to over time, that is well researched and based on something a lot more more solid that the authors egos. Recommended for even the most jaded biz book reader.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Sustain Success 30 May 2004
The concept behind this book is brilliant: Find out what makes companies that outperform their peers for decades enjoy that success.
The most important lesson of this book is to create lasting ways of managing your business successfully that will outlive the skills and perspective of any one person, no matter how talented.
The book is fun to read. I liked the way the ideas were described: "Big, hairy, audacious goals" is a fun concept just from the title.
One of the most useful ideas is that we need to hold conflicting ideas in our minds, such as "do more" and "spend less". English often suggests that conflicts exist in what can be done that do not really exist in practice.
This book is outstanding for "telling it like it is". Of particular interest to investors will be the stock-price charts showing how valuable these lessons are for public companies and their shareholders.
The work is a little dated in that it is looking at lessons that were the causes of success decades ago. Also, the book is most relevant to new companies rather than established ones.
None of the companies profiled here ended up being an important source of busines model innovation in the 21st century, so you'll have to find that information from more recent research.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Collins J & Porras J, (1997), Built to Last 31 Mar 2004
Collins J & Porras J, (1997), Built to Last
The book is very much a research book with a view to capture why these visionary organisations are successful. At least 114 pages are devoted to research information or methodology, pages 1 - 21 and 240 - 333.
Page 19 - This must be one of the very first books to examine the entire organisations history for all 36 organisations. The average life span being 96 years, over 60,000 - 100,000 pages of documents examined, over 100 books read and so much more were taken into account when researching Built to Last during a 6-year period.
Page 3 - The book examines the 18 most successful / visionary organisations that have been identified through fellow CEO / executives from research undertaken based on the: Fortune 500 industrial companies, Fortune 500 service companies, Inc. 500 private companies and Inc. 100 public companies - Page 13.
Page 13 - The next stage was to find organisations within the same industry to compare on a like for like basis, to help understand why these visionary organisations are what they have become today, a "super organisation". In total, the book examines 36 organisations.
Page 27 - Not all the visionary organisation were initially successful during their entrepreneur period (results on page 274), in fact out of the 18 visionary organisations only 3 were more successful than their comparisons; Johnson & Johnson, Ford, GE (Page 22). This means 10 comparisons organisations were more successful than the visionary organisation. Leaving 5 organisations being indistinguishable - probably due to lack of information, see page 254.
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