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Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies Paperback – Jun 24 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1 edition (June 24 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060516402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060516406
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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 counterexamples--in fact, the majority of the "visionary" companies, including giants like 3M, Sony, and TI, don't fit the model. They were characterized 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.

From Library Journal

What makes a visionary company? This book, written by a team from Stanford's Graduate School of Business, compares what the authors have identified as "visionary" companies with selected companies in the same industry. The authors juxtapose Disney and Columbia Pictures, Ford and General Motors, Motorola and Zenith, and Hewlett-Packard and Texas Instruments, to name a few. The visionary companies, the authors found out, had a number of common characteristics; for instance, almost all had some type of core ideology that guided the company in times of upheaval and served as a constant bench mark. Not all the visionary companies were founded by visionary leaders, however. On the whole, this is an intriguing book that occasionally provides rare and interesting glimpses into the inner workings and philosophical foundations of successful businesses. Recommended for all libraries.
Randy L. Abbott, Univ. of Evansville Lib., Ind.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Built to Last" is one of those rare non-fiction books you just can't put down. Unequivocally the best "business" book I have ever read, "Built to Last" by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras is a compelling, thorough, well-written, unprecedented look at what it takes to "create and achieve long-lasting greatness as a visionary corporation." Unlike many current "trendy" management and "business success" books out on the market, Collins and Porras differentiate "Built to Last" by using their own six-year comprehensive, well-documented research study as the basis for further analysis.

What separates "Built to Last" is that each visionary company (3M, HP, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart...) is contrasted with a comparison company founded in the same time, in the same industry, with similar founding products and markets (Norton, TI, Colgate, Ames...). Perhaps what I found most intriguing were some of the twelve "shattered myths" they go on to counter throughout the book:

1. It takes a great idea to start a great company

2. Visionary companies require great and charismatic visionary leaders

3. Visionary companies share a common subset of "correct" core values

4. Highly successful companies make their best moves by brilliant and complex strategic planning

5. The most successful companies focus primarily on beating the competition

As a current business student with a summer internship in a "visionary company," I was amazed as their careful analysis rang true. This is one book I can highly recommend to any student, professional, or business educator looking for those not-so-subtle traits that characterize a truly visionary company.
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Format: Hardcover
In a compelling and thoughtful way, "Built to Last" shows how companies achieve long-term success through adherence to core values and commitment to innovation. What a refreshing antidote to the more common trend of selling out for short-term gains! The companies profiled here are truly to be admired.
However, the book left me with two bones to pick. The first is the example of IBM as a "visionary" company. As history tells, Big Blue was dragged kicking and screaming into the PC age. Its calcified structure blinded it to the demise of the mainframe and the microcomputing revolution, and indeed it utterly ceded the PC's operating system to Microsoft -- a strategic blunder of epic scale. Though the "PC-compatible" platform that IBM developed eventually became industry standard, IBM profited little from it. Had IBM been truly a visionary firm, it would have seen the PC revolution coming and dominated it, keeping at bay upstarts like Microsoft, Apple, Dell and others who caught Big Blue sleeping.
The second oversight involves the near-complete omission of the DuPont Company. Here is a company -- one of the oldest in America, now entering its third century -- that has reinvented itself time and again, stayed on the bleeding edge, and has always been committed to its employees. If any company in the world is "built to last," DuPont is it.
NOTE: I have neither a grudge against IBM nor have any interest in DuPont. This is just the way I see it.
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Format: Paperback
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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