advice/perspective on jobs, work and management

60 SEC BOOK REVIEW: Built to Last (by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras)

Built to Last (1994) by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras seems to have lived up to its title at least. Nearly 30 years after its publication it’s still considered one of the most influential business management books of all time.[1]

So ‘lasted’ it has.

But according to its preface:

At it’s deepest level this is not a business book.[2]

That’s funny, because for a text that’s supposedly not about business management, it sure has a lot to say about how to run a company. For example:

A company must have a core ideology to become a visionary company. …if you’ve made time to read this book, then we encourage you to set aside time to articulate your ideology now [authors’ emphasis].[3]

Except that:

Not all visionary companies began life with a well-articulated core ideology. … So if you haven’t yet articulated a core ideology because you’ve been in throes of launching a company, that’s okay.[4]

Hmm… Collins and Porras also quote a lot of businesspeople for a ‘not a business book’-book. Like this Hewlett-Packard marketing manager, who has the following to say about goal-setting [my emphasis]:

We’re proud of our successes, and we celebrate them. But the real excitement comes in figuring out how we can do even better in the future. It’s a never-ending process of seeing how far we can go. There’s no ultimate finish line where we can say ‘we’ve arrived.’ I never want us to be finished with our success, for that’s when we’ll begin to decline.[5]

However, that contradicts the authors’ own opinion on the subject:

Like a moon mission, a [goal] is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort—often creating immense team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.[6]

I’ll admit that with inconsistencies like that, I’ve come around to the idea that anyone involved in business management shouldn’t bother reading Collins’ and Porras’ text.[7]

But if Built to Last really ISN’T about business, or how to manage one, someone should probably tell their publisher too.

It’s HarperBusiness.



[1] “The 25 Most Influential Business Management Books,”,29569,2086680,00.html. Retrieved Dec. 31, 2021.

[2] p. xiv

[3] p. 216&79.

[4] p. 79.

[5] p. 85.

[6] p. 94.

[7] For a deeper dive into why you needn’t bother reading any management advice book, in my opinion, check out my posts: “Throw out that management advice book” and “Throw out that management advice book (Part 2).”

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