It always amazes me how much of the real purpose of the organization is often unsaid, assumed, never proper articulated. One thing is the declared, public objectives and another the real purpose and intentions behind.
In 1994, Collins and Porras hit the management publishing jackpot with the book ‘Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies’, an account of companies that seemed to have been built with a long term view, even if their strategies changed. That ‘built to last’ soon became an uncritical proxy for ‘the real proper company’ as compared to the ones that disappeared for any reasons. It took a while for some critics to question whether the ‘last’ characteristic was by definition the desired best scenario. After all, the digital boom arrived with its bubbles and many of those companies looked very ephemeral, yet made many people, including owners, very happy.
To me, the principle is not the last or not last scenario, but the simple discipline, the unspoken question, the elephant on the room of purpose. Real purpose.
I suppose,then, the real strategic question is ‘built to what?”
Here are some legitimate models
- Built to last
- Built to sell
- Built as a vehicle to produce A, sell it and go
- Built to host many things ( a platform), so it will last as long as the platform is useful (Amazon is a technology platform, not a bazaar)
- Built to make money to the shareholders, to create wealth to owners (note, you can also make money by human trafficking, arms dealings and casinos)
- Variant of the above, but different, built to make profit (Amazon, again, does not make profit, any complains?)
- Built to a purpose (big, small, money, vehicle, last, sell are not the point), for a cause
- Built to win
- Built to create, innovate, do new things, invent, twist, disrupt
- Built to serve (expand as you wish)
Although you will tell me that these are not mutually exclusive, it is amazing how people go about without declaring the purpose (pick one or ore of above) openly.
The reason why I have split them in 10 is because, beyond the superficial reading, and, yes, the overlap, each of them have completely different ethos and will attract completely differed people.
We don’t ask ourselves ‘built to what?’ often enough