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Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies Hardcover – 1 Sep 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Business; New Ed edition (1 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844135845
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844135844
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"'One of the most eye-opening business studies since In Search of Excellence.'" (Kevin Maney USA Today)

"'Built to Last is an unusual business book - seriously researched, unconventional in its conclusions...[It] is well worth reading, particularly by those engaged in trying to reinvigorate our nation's largest enterprises.' " (Richard J. Tofel Wall Street Journal)

"'In Built to Last, Collins and Porras present a brilliant and lucid analysis and, yes, a blueprint for organizational excellence. It should be required reading.'" (Warren Bennis)

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This book is a must read for anyone looking to create a visionary company. The examples within it are brilliant & very thought provoking. 'Used' book was in excellent condition. Thank you
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Format: Hardcover
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").
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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