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In their best-selling book, Built to Last, Collins and Porras studied 18 companies which all met the following criteria:

  • Premier institution in its industry
  • Widely admired
  • Made an indelible print on the world in which we live
  • Had multiple generations of CEO’s
  • Had been through multiple product/service life cycles
  • Founded before 1950

In other words, each company was sustainable, consistently prospered in both up and down market cycles and went through the transitions of both products and leaders.  So they are great case studies providing lessons for us to apply to our own businesses.

It’s important to recognize that these companies were constructed in an organized way from the start with the visions being put in place at an early stage.  A key step in building a visionary company is to articulate core ideology.

Core ideology = core values + purpose

Core values are the organization’s guiding principles.  Purpose is the fundamental reason for existing beyond just making money.  Think of purpose as that perpetual guiding star on the horizon.

core values
Visionary companies are more successful at thoroughly indoctrinating employees into the core ideology, creating strong culture around it.  The core values need no justification and they do not shift in response to changing market conditions.  If you’re not willing to adopt the company culture, then you probably shouldn’t be there.

Once the core ideology is firmly established, the visionary companies create mechanisms to .  They clearly see the need to stimulate change and improvement before it is imposed on them from external competitive forces.  In other words, the organization’s core ideology (values + purpose) drives change more than any actions of a single leader.  They build first and foremost for the long term while at the same time maintaining highly demanding standards.

Consider the following questions:

  1. Have you clearly established your core ideology in a way that everyone in your organization understands it? 
  2. What mechanisms of discontent could you build into your organization?
  3. What are you doing to invest for the future while still working for today?
  4. Does your company reject the premise that doing good is good enough and instead replace it with the never ending discipline of continuous improvement?

There is no magic formula to success, but there seems to be clear logic that establishing a core ideology, building your culture around it, and using it as a filter for decision-making greatly improves your organization’s chance for success and sustainability.  In other words, your values will drive the change in your organization.

Do you have questions for us?  Contact either Mark Ellsworth or Matt Heemstra at (712) 324-4614.

 

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