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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, but missing the deeper analytical level.
This is an inspiring book, and informative. It answers the "what" question convincingly. I missed answers to the "why" questions. Why, for example, are successful visionary companies characterized by their emphasis on ethical standards? There are many possible explanations: the staff of the company are inspired by the ideals and give more to their employer; the companies...
Published on 9 Jan 2006 by Benjamin Rossen

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars solid yet pedestrian, like lots of businesses
As I dutifully plow through the currently popular business books - and I read only the ones that I need rather than for pleasure - I occasionally find a good and (fairly) interesting one. This is one of those books I would recommend. Instead of overflowing with ridiculously florid rhetoric about recycled banalities and excitement that is simply not justified, this book is...
Published on 9 July 2011 by rob crawford


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars solid yet pedestrian, like lots of businesses, 9 July 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
As I dutifully plow through the currently popular business books - and I read only the ones that I need rather than for pleasure - I occasionally find a good and (fairly) interesting one. This is one of those books I would recommend. Instead of overflowing with ridiculously florid rhetoric about recycled banalities and excitement that is simply not justified, this book is based on solid research and is not afraid to offer un-spectacular advice.
It is about what the authors call "visionary companies," which stand for something beyond just making money and yet are profitable. They do well, and they do good. There is no doubt that such companies exist, which I admit in spite of my boredom and cynicism regarding most of the businessmen and "business intellectuals" that I deal with as a writer.

Set up like an academic study, the book is a synthesis of the authors' findings while taking a long historical view of consistently excellent (i.e. "visionary") companies like H-P, Merck, and P&G.

Not surprisingly, these companies do similar things: 1) they have visions and value that they try to uphold consistently throughout the company and to which they stay true over decades; 2) the set incredibly ambitious (and in retrospect realistic) goals that inspire their employees ("big hairy ambitious goals"); 3) they are cult-like in their beliefs in themselves; 4) they allow for trial and error, which lead to "evolutionary progress"; 5) they hire leadership from within; 6) they cultivate keeping their employees a bit off-balance ("uncomfortable") as a way of getting them to perform at their best; 7) they make sure that all elements work in concert and are internally consistent and self-reinforcing ("alignment").

That is it for the ideas, which are far more nuanced than the above paragraph. They could be summarized in one chapter, and the rest of the book is repetition and analysis by example. The examples are interesting and informative and the ideas, which have all been said before, are good to review in a systematic way. Very good.

These are good and useful ideas, if somewhat banal. But then, doing business is rather dull for the most part - there are very few exciting companies out there, but most of them are like horribly dysfunctional families. This is the authors' bid to explain the good few.

The tone of the book is rather modest, but the authors do get a bit too wordy and chummy in many instances. While I liked the modesty, I got bored with the chumminess.

Recommended.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, but missing the deeper analytical level., 9 Jan 2006
This is an inspiring book, and informative. It answers the "what" question convincingly. I missed answers to the "why" questions. Why, for example, are successful visionary companies characterized by their emphasis on ethical standards? There are many possible explanations: the staff of the company are inspired by the ideals and give more to their employer; the companies reap payoffs in the long term from grateful recipients of their honorable deeds; the companies acquire a good reputation which increases sales and hence profits. More interesting, is the question of the logic of ethics in the business game - not even touched by these authors.
According to Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, it does not matter what the company ideology is, as long as it is passionately believed by the management and employees. I find this a dubious claim, and not supported by the data. The ideological frameworks of the companies that were studied are not interchangeable, not for the trivial reason that the ideology of another company happens not to be the one believed by each of them. Boeing is unlikely to spend money on a program to cure river blindness in Africa. Why does Merck do this? Clearly, a pharmaceutical firm does well to invest in a reputation for medical generosity that flows from a passion for making people well? Merck is purchasing precisely the trust that pays-off in the medical market place. Trust reduces transaction costs, and in some cases is almost as good as a monopoly. Boeing, on the other hand, must buy a brand name attached to their dedication to engineering excellence. It does matter what companies are passionate about.
My company operates on the Internet. Our pledge includes the words: "The tragedy of the commons is the propensity of users to take more from the commons than they give. We undertake to contribute more to the commons than we take. Our presence shall make the Internet safer, more useful and greater fun." Why is this a suitable ideology for our company? The answer is not that this is one we happen to believe in, and feel passionate about - although we do. Rather, this ideology is strategically fitting. We enhance to our brand name, and therefore the value of our software, by adding our reputation to the web applications we write.
In one of our daughter businesses we are a broker of information from merchants to consumer (information about products that are available) and from consumer to merchant (we generate real time demand curves for a large range of commodities). We have pledged not to become a trader. Why? In ethical terms, we should not be a trader because our insider information would give rise to conflict of interest. The trust that we gain by not being a trader, and hence remaining a disinterested supplier of market information, enables us to broker Coasian agreements with reduced transaction costs between the parties on the Internet. The advantage is large. It is on the Internet commons that trust is scarce. We are able to purchase this by foregoing some potentially profitable trades, and that pays us more in the long term in our role as an information service provider.
Our ideology was designed to give us the greatest possible strategic advantage in our markets. That is not to say we do not believe in our ideals, but that the nature of our ideology is important. It does matter what we believe. It matters what you believe, and it matters that you understand that it matters.
I strongly recommend "The Modern Firm" by Roberts. Read this alongside "Built to Last". Roberts is a harder read, but he gets under the logic of corporate dynamics better than Collins and Porras. Because "Built to Last" is characterized by an ubiquitous analytical paucity, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras' interpretations of their data are not always correct. That is a pity. Their findings are exciting, inspiring even, and the book despite its limitations is a good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turning the good into the great, 28 Oct 2009
By 
Jonathan Kettleborough (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
I read the original of this book many years ago. It had a profound effect on me. How could two sets of seemingly similar organisations fair so differently when it came to brand, market share and above all sales and profit? What was it about the great companies that stood them aside from the merely good?

In this book the myths are unravelled and the truth is laid bare. The great companies have something deep inside them, their vision and values and perhaps their corporate soul.

Bu then all companies these days have visions and values. The difference with the great companies is that they really live these values, everyday and in everything they do. When Johnson & Johnson were faced with a potentially crippling product recall that was not of their doing they had a very simple decision to make. It cost them hundreds of millions of dollars but it was right and the customer trust of the brand increased. Remember Perrier? Few people do. Once the leading bottled water, where is it now? The reason; because Perrier decided NOT to act on a potentially crippling product recall that WAS it's fault. The result people deserted the brand in droves.

This is just one example but a real world one that illustrates why these great companies have stood out and flourished. This book gives dozens of examples which are well worth a second and third read.

It looks easy on paper but as anyone in business knows, doing the right thing at all times is NEVER easy.

A timeless book which delivers so much. If I had one criticism it's that the companies are just too US centric.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing novel, 3 Jun 2009
I was very excited to get this book and read during a timespan of 2 weeks (hoping the surprise was on the next page). The ideas presented are not novel; things like "the company should have a vision" are obvious. I liked most the chapter on trying out a few things and seeing what succeeds (rather than being scared of failures and trying nothing). Even that is something one needs to 'remember' every now and then; it's not a concept I first learned in this book.
Authors of Good to Great and this book certainly are making lots of money from charging so much for rather uninspiring (and overly repetitive) books.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Built to Last, 11 Jan 2014
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Like all Jim Collins' work it is well researched, but I suspect many copanies will succeed or fail for completely differeent reasons
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected!, 26 Dec 2013
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I have to admit that I had put off reading this book as I suspected it may be a bit boring, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I like the style of the book and also the fact that it is not just a report of facts the authors have tried to write it in such a style as to be applied in a practical manner within a business.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential basic work for organizational strategy lovers, 29 Nov 2013
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Built to Last is essential ground-work for all organizational strategy lovers to understand organizational dynamics. Collins and Porras introduce fascinating concepts that shed light on why some organizations thrive over the long-term, some of these concepts include: leaders who build structures to ensure an organization's longevity (as opposed to having brilliant ideas that others implement); leaders / organizations that can embrace opposing states (such as adhering to core values AND embracing dynamic and changing circumstances). Highly recommended for anyone interested in organizational strategy, development, leadership.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Preserve the Core / Stimulate Progress, 1 July 2013
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Nearly 20 years ago this book has been written, and it is still so applicable !

Based on scientific research on “visionary” companies, a lot of interesting findings are formulated. I several times felt like reading thoughts which I have been (subconsciously) thinking for years, and applied professionally. What a relief the see them so nicely formulated ! Why haven’t I read this book before?

Ideas I liked most:
- Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress: you should separate the Core Ideology (which shouldn’t change) from the drive for Progress (which can change and should never be satisfied)
- No tyranny of the OR: instead of having to choose between Continuity OR Change (for example), you should choose Continuity AND Change. The authors put it like this: “The ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain ability to function”
- Good enough never is: visionary companies always go for better, good enough (or the 80/20 rule) is not enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read book for any organisation, 6 April 2013
Similar to the prequel for this book, Good to Great, this text looks at what makes a company not only perform to excellence, but what makes it last over a period of time. Using in depth research to back up all the findings, it shows why some companies continue to perform while comparison companies in similar industries fall behind. It really shows how to get the extra percentage, extra yard needed.

I read this book before reading Good to Great, which is probably the wrong way round, even though Built to Last was the first book written. Either way, both books are essential, not only for businesses but for any organisation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A must read business book:, 30 Mar 2013
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This book was really useful for me to read ... And I love to still have it at hand among my favorite business books.
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Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins (Audio CD - 1 Sep 2005)
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