07 June 2009

In putting together my personal leadership development plan for a class, I read James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, Building your Company’s Vision, HBR September-October 1996.   Follows is a summary of what I learned:

An organization should know the following:

  • Core Ideology- its character e.g. ethics. It is composed of the Core Values and Core Purpose.
  • Core Values- its tenets, e.g. customer service.  Core Values do not change in even 100 years, as opposed to operating practices which do change. Core Values are kept even if they penalize the company. An organization should have 3-5 core values, which is not to say it does not have other values, but that these will last.  An organization should be able to identify a Mars Group of 5-7 that live its core values. The name refers to people the organization would figuratively send to Mars to start a branch with the same Core Values of the organization.
  • Core Purpose- its reason for being, its motivation, e.g. to make a contribution to society. It is something over the long term.

The Core Ideology is something the organization must discover about itself. It cannot be imposed.  It should not be confused with Core Competence, which is something the organization is good at, e.g. miniaturization.

  • Envisioned Future: a 10-30 year audacious goal with a vivid description and BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal), i.e. a daunting challenge with a concrete finish line.  The BHAG is a goal, but not a purpose

In clarifying the function of the BHAG, Collins and Porras ask: “Did Beethoven create the right Ninth Symphony? Did Shakespeare create the right Hamlet… The envisioned future involves such essential questions as Does it get our juices flowing? Do we find it stimulating? Does it spur forward momentum? Does it get people going?”  That is, it is more about motivating the organization towards the goal than a specific result.

They also caution:  “Start-up companies frequently suffer from the We’ve Arrived Syndrome after going public or after reaching a stage in which survival no longer seems in question.”  This is an important point– achieving a BHAG means that another one must be set or else the organization will lapse into mediocrity or worse.

In applying this to myself, or the individual in general, it becomes clear that we must separate the BHAG of wheat from the chaff of day-to-day concerns.  We should identify what truly motivates us to work, excel, succeed, and be happy and content.  We should identify what values we have they we will stick to no matter what.  We should then set a difficult, but reachable goal of where we want to be in 5,10, or 30 years and plan out the action steps of how we will arrive there.  And this process of identifying a BHAG and working towards it should be dynamic and constant.

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