You may remember the hype around the Collins and Porras book ‘Built to Last’ (1994), a great business book which was followed years later by ‘Good to Great’. Required reading for business education.
Tom Peters, management guru, in a calmer state of thinking these days, was, at the time quick to challenge. Why would durability, for its own sake, be desirable? He knew about these things, since many companies that he gave us as examples of Excellence (‘In Search of Excellence’, 1982) had disappeared from the list years later. Leaving aside the fact that the method he used to identify these Excellent Companies was far from serious (unless you think that asking colleagues in McKinsey about which companies to look for has terrific intellectual strength because of some genetic differences within the McKinsey citizens,) the list, and then the book became the bestseller of the time and the origin of the Business Books Industry.
The answer of ‘durability’ or to become’ great’ has for me less importance than the discipline of asking the question: Built to what? What for? You would be surprised how many businesses have not asked this question of themselves.
Built to what? Sell stuff? Change the world? Exit in 5 years? Know? Maximise shareholder value? Make money? As always in management, the question is more important than the answer.
Back to the durability concept that Tom Peters hates, it’s refreshing to hear Jason Fried, a ‘young leader’ and entrepreneur who is CEO of Basecamp, say: “Not every business has to be a place where everything is chaotic and everyone’s sweating. Rapid growth and getting big create a lot of tension and turbulence. We’re in this for the slow, long term.”
I can hear Peters saying, ‘Just wait a few more months’.
PS. Strange that Tom Peters has a problem with ‘durability’ when he is a prime example of super-durability.