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Does your company have what it takes to last through hard times and beyond?

May 26, 2009

In their classic book, Build to Last, authors James Collins and Jerry Porras articulated seven distinguishing characteristics of the world’s most enduring and successful companies. The authors came up with these characteristics after studying a group of exceptional companies that have weathered the test of time (average founding date 1897) and compared them with good, but not great companies. This revealed a framework for visionary leadership that lasts—a framework we can emulate within our organizations today. Here are the seven characteristics of visionary companies:

    1. More than profits, core ideology (An organization inspired by a set of ideals, not just dollars)

    2. Preserve core and stimulate progress ("If an organization is to meet the challenges of a changing world, it must be prepared to change everything about itself except its basic beliefs as it moves through corporate life. The only sacred cow should be its basic philosophy of doing business.")  

    3. Big hairy audacious goals BHAG ("A true BHAG is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort—often creating immense team spirit.")

    4. Cult-like cultures (A sense of belonging to something special.)

    5. Try a lot of stuff and keep what works (An evolutionary progress that usually begins with small incremental steps or mutations, often in the form of quickly seizing unexpected opportunities that eventually grow into major—and often unanticipated—strategic shifts.")

    6. Home grown management (A process for developing and mentoring leadership from within the organization.)

    7. Good enough never is (Institutionalizing the question: How can we do better tomorrow than we did today?)


In Built to Last, Collins and Porras debunked the myth that visionary organizations are merely a result of visionary leaders. Instead, they described visionary organizations emerging from a visionary culture co-created by the individuals within the organization. This is incredibly empowering because it means every member has a critical and active role in creating and sustaining the culture.


We would love to hear your ideas, methods, strategies and BHAGs for creating great Wyoming companies that are built to last!


Diane Wolverton


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