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Building Ur Companys Vision


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Building Ur Companys Vision

  1. 1. SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 1 9 9 6 SIOI by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras We shall not cease from exploration tions its structure and revamps its processes while And the end of all our exploring preserving the ideals embodied in its eredo. In 1996, Will he to arrive where we started 3M sold off several of its large mature husinesses- And know the place for the first time. a dramatic move that surprised the husiness press- to refocus on its enduring core purpose of solving T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets unsolved prohlcms innovatively. We studied com- panies such as these in our research for Built to Companies that enjoy enduring success have Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies core values and a core purpose that remain fixed and found that they have outperformed the general while their husiness strategies and practices end- stock market hy a factor of 12 since 1925. lessly adapt to a changing world. The dynamic of preserving the core while stimulating progress fames C. Collins is a management educator and writer is the reason that companies such as Hewlett- based in Boulder, Colorado, where he operates a man- Packard, 3M, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gam- agement learnmg laboratory for conducting research ble, Merck, Sony, Motorola, and Nordstrom he- and working with executives. He is also a visiting profes- came elite institutions able to renew themselves sor of business administration at the University of Vir- and achieve superior long-term performance. ginia in Charlottesville. Jerry 1. Porras is the Lane Profes- Hewlett-Packard employees have long known that sor of Organizational Behavior and Change at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business m Stanford, radical change in operating practices, cultural California, where he is also the director of the Executive norms, and husiness strategies does not mean los- Program in Leading and Managing Change. Collins and ing the spirit of the HP Way - the eompany's core Porras are coauthors o/Built to Last: Successful Habits of principles. Johnson & Johnson continually ques- Visionary Companies (HarperBusiness, 1994). HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW September-October 1996 65
  2. 2. VISION Truly great companies understand the difference company exists to make technical contrihutions for hetween what should never change and what the advancement and welfare of humanity. Compa- should be open for change, between what is gen- ny huilders such as David Packard, Masaru Ihuka of uinely sacred and what is not. This rare ahility to Sony, George Merck of Merck, William McKnight manage continuity and change - requiring a con- of 3M, and Paul Galvin of Motorola understood that sciously practiced discipline - is closely linked to it is more important to know who you are than the ahility to develop a vision. Vision provides guid- where you are going, for where you are going will ance ahout what core to preserve and what future to change as the world around you changes. Leaders stimulate progress toward. But vision has become die, products hecome obsolete, markets change, one of the most overused and least understood new technologies emerge, and management fads words in the language, conjuring up different im- come and go, hut core ideology in a great company ages for different people: of deeply held values, out- endures as a source of guidance and inspiration. standing achievement, societal honds, exhilarating Core ideology provides the glue that holds an goals, motivating forces, or raisons d'etre. We rec- organization together as it grows, decentralizes, di- ommend a conceptual framework to define vision, versifies, expands globally, and develops workplace add clarity and rigor to the vague and fuzzy con- diversity. Think of it as analogous to the principles cepts swirling around that trendy term, and give of Judaism that held the Jewish people together for practical guidance for articulating a coherent vision centuries without a homeland, even as they spread within an organization. It is a prescriptive frame- throughout the Diaspora. Or think of the truths work rooted in six years of research and refined and held to be self-evident in the Declaration of Inde- tested hy our ongoing work with executives from a pendence, or the enduring ideals and principles of great variety of organizations around the world. the scientific community that bond scientists from A well-conceived vision consists of two major every nationality together in the common purpose components: core ideology and envisioned future. of advancing human knowledge. Any effective vi- [See the exhihit "Articulating a Vision.") Core ide- sion must emhody the core ideology of the organi- ology, the yin in our scheme, defines what we stand zation, which in turn consists of two distinct parts: for and why we exist. Yin is unchanging and com- core values, a system of guiding principles and plements yang, the envisioned future. The envi- tenets; and core purpose, the organization's most sioned future is what we aspire to hecome, to fundamental reason for existence. achieve, to create-something that will require sig- Core Values. Core values are the essential and en- nificant change and progress to attain. during tenets of an organization. A small set of timeless guiding principles, core values require no external justification; they have intrinsic value and Core Ideology importance to those inside the organization. The Core ideology defines the enduring character of Walt Disney Company's core values of imagination an organization - a consistent identity that tran- and wholesomeness stem not from market require- scends product or market life cycles, technological ments hut from the founder's inner helief that hreakthroughs, management fads, and individual imagination and wholesomeness should he nur- leaders. In fact, the most lasting and significant tured for their own sake. William Procter and James contrihution of those who build visionary com- Gamble didn't instill in P&G's culture a focus on panies is the core ideology. As Bill Hewlett said product excellence merely as a strategy for success ahout his longtime friend and husi- ness partner David Packard upon Packard's death not long ago, "As far as the company is concerned, the ideology provides the glue greatest thing he left hchind him was a code of ethics known as the HP that holds an organization Way." HP's core ideology, which has guided the company since its incep- together through time. tion more than 50 years ago, includes a deep respect for the individual, a dedication to af- but as an almost religious tenet. And that value has fordable quality and reliahility, a commitment to heen passed down for more than 15 decades hy P&G community responsihility (Packard himself he- people. Service to the customer-even to the point queathcd his $4.3 hillion of Hewlett-Packard stock of suhservience-is a way of life at Nordstrom that to a charitable foundation), and a view that the traces its roots hack to 1901, eight decades hefore 66 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Septemhcr-October 1996
  3. 3. fundamental and deeply held that they will change Articulating a Vision seldom, if ever. To identify the core values of your own organiza- tion, push with relentless honesty to define what values are truly central. If you articulate more than five or six, chances are that you are confusing core (J Core values values (which do not change) with operating prac- D Core purpose tices, business strategies, or cultural norms (wbich should he open to change). Remember, the values must stand the test of time. After you've drafted a preliminary list of the core values, ask about each one. If tbe circumstances changed and penalized us for holding this eore value, would we still keep it? If you can't honestly answer yes, then the value is not lO-to-.^U-yearBHAG core and should be dropped from consideration. (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) J Vivid description A high-technology company wondered whether it should put quality on its list of core values. The CEO asked, "Suppose in ten years quality doesn't make a hoot of difference in our markets. Suppose the only thing that matters is sheer speed and horsepower but not quality. Would we still want to customer service programs became stylish. For Bill put quality on our list of core values?" The mem- Hewlett and David Packard, respect for the individ- bers of the management team looked around at one ual was first and foremost a deep personal value; another and finally said no. Quality stayed in the they didn't get it from a book or hear it from a man- strategy of the company, and quality-improvement agement guru. And Ralph S. Larsen, CEO of John- programs remained in place as a mechanism for son & Johnson, puts it this way; "The eore values stimulating progress; hut quality did not make the embodied in our credo might be a competitive list of core values. advantage, but that is not why we have them. We The same group of executives then wrestled witb have them because they define for us wbat we stand leading-edge innovation as a core value. The CEO for, and we would hold them even if they became asked, "Would we keep innovation on the list as a competitive disadvantage in certain situations." a core value, no matter how the world around us The point is that a great company decides for changed:" This time, the management team gave itself what values it holds to be core, largely inde- a resounding yes. The managers' outlook might be pendent of the current environment, competitive summarized as, "We always want to do leading- requirements, or management fads. Clearly, then, edge innovation. That's who we are. It's really im- there is no universally right set of core values. portant to us and always will be. No matter what. A company need not have as its core value cus- And if our current markets don't value it, we will tomer service (Sony doesn't) or respect for the indi- find markets that do." Leading-edge innovation vidual (Disney doesn't) or quality (Wal-Mart Stores went on the list and will stay there. A company doesn't) or market focus (HP doesn't) or teamwork sbould not change its core values in response to (Nordstrom doesn't). A company might have oper- market changes,- rather, it should change markets, ating practices and business strategies around those if necessary, to remain true to its core values. qualities without having them at the essence of its Who should be involved in articulating the eore being. Furthermore, great companies need not have values varies witb the size, age, and geographic dis- likable or humanistic core values, although many persion of the company, but in many situations we do. The key is not what core values an organization have recommended what we eall a Mars Group. It has but that it has core values at all. works like this: Imagine that you've been asked to Companies tend to have only a few core values, re-create the very best attributes of your organiza- usually between three and five. In fact, we found tion on another planet hut you have seats on the that none of the visionary companies we studied in rocket ship for only five to seven people. Whom our hook had more than five: most had only three or should you send? Most likely, you'll choose the four. (See the insert "Core Values Are a Company's people who have a gut-level understanding of your Essential Tenets.") And, indeed, we should expect core values, the highest level of credibility with that. Only a few values can be truly core-that is, so their peers, and the highest levels of competence. HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Sept cm ber-October 1996 67
  4. 4. Core Values Are a Company's Essential Tenets Merck n Encouraging individual initiative a Corporate social responsibility • Opportunity based on merit; no one is entitled D Unequivocal excellence in all aspects of to anything the company D Hard work and continuous self-improvement D Science-based innovation D Honesty and integrity Sony • Profit, but profit from work tbat benefits n Elevation of the Japanese culture and humanity national status a Being a pioneer - not following others; doing Nordstrom the impossible • Service to the customer above all else D Encouraging individual ability and creativity D Hard work and individual productivity n Never being satisfied Walt Disney • Excellence in reputation; being part of C No cynicism something special n Nurturing and promulgation of "wholesome American values" Philip Morris G Creativity, dreams, and imagination C The right to freedom of choice n Fanatical attention to consistency and detail n Winning - beating others in a good fight • Preservation and control of tbe Disney magic We'll often ask people brought together to vi'ork on that should not change and practices and strategies core values to nominate a Mars Group of five to that should be changing all the time. seven individuals (not necessarily all from the as- Core Purpose. Core purpose, the seeond part of sembled group). Invariably, they end up selecting core ideology, is the organization's reason for being. bighly credible representatives who do a super job An effective purpose reflects people's idealistic mo- of articulating the core values precisely because tivations for doing the company's work. It doesn't they are exemplars of those values-a representative just describe the organization's output or target slice of the eompany's genetic code. customers; it captures the soul of the organization. Even global organizations composed of people [See the insert "Core Purpose Is a Company's Rea- from widely diverse cultures can identify a set of son for Being.") Purpose, as illustrated by a speech shared core values. The secret is to work from the David Packard gave to HP employees in 1960, gets individual to the organization. People involved in at the deeper reasons for an organization's existence artieulating the eore values need to answer several beyond just making money. Paekard said, questions: What core values do you personally bring to your work? (These should be so fundamen- I want to discuss why a company exists in the first place. tal that you would hold them regardless of whether In otber words, wby are we here? I think many people or not they were rewarded.) Wbat would you tell assume, wrongly, tbat a company exists simply to make your children are the core values that you hold at money. Wbile this is an important result of a company's work and that you bope they will hold when they existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons become working adults- If you awoke tomorrow for our being. As we investigate this, we inevitably come morning with enough money to retire for tbe rest of to the conclusion that a group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company so tbey are your life, would you continue to live those core val- able to accomplisb sometbing collectively tbat tbey ues? Can you envision them being as valid for you could not accomplish separately - they make a contribu- 100 years from now as they are today? Would you tion to society, a phrase which sounds trite but is funda- want to hold those core values, even if at some mental.... You can look around |in the general business point one or more of them became a competitive world and] see people who are interested in money and disadvantage? If you were to start a new organiza- notbing else, but the underlying drives come largely from tion tomorrow in a different line of work, wbat core a desire to do something else: to make a product, to give values would you build into the new organization a service - generally to do something wbicb is of valne.' regardless of its industry? The last three questions are particularly important because they make the Purpose (which should last at least 100 years) crucial distinction between enduring core values should not be confused with specific goals or busi- 68 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW September-Octobtr 1996
  5. 5. VISION ness strategies (which should change many times velop new systems for redueing mortgage under- in 100 years). Whereas you might achieve a goal or writing costs by 40% in five years; programs to complete a strategy, you cannot fulfill a purpose,- it eliminate discrimination in the lending process is like a guiding star on the horizon-forever pur- (baeked by $5 billion in underwriting experiments); sued but never reached. Yet although purpose itself and an audaeious goal to provide, by the year 2000, does not change, it does inspire change. The very $1 trillion targeted at 10 million families that had fact that purpose can never be fully realized means traditionally been shut out of home ownership - that an organization can never stop stimulating minorities, immigrants, and low-income groups. change and progress. Similarly, 3M defines its purpose not in terms of In identifying purpose, some companies make adhesives and abrasives but as the perpetual quest the mistake of simply describing their current prod- to solve unsolved problems innovatively-a purpose uct lines or customer segments. We do not consider the following state- ment to reflect an effective purpose: "We exist to fulfill our government Core ideology consists of core charter and participate in the see- ondary mortgage market by pack- values and core purpose. aging mortgages into investment securities." Tbe statement is merely Core purpose is a raison d'etre, descriptive. A far more effective statement of purpose would be that not a goal or business strategy. expressed by the executives of the Federal National Mortgage Association, Fannie that is always leading 3M into new fields. MeKin- Mae: "To strengthen the social fabric by continual- sey & Company's purpose is not to do management ly democratizing home ownership." The secondary consulting but to help corporations and govern- mortgage market as we know it might not even ex- ments be more successful: in 100 years, it might ist in 100 years, but strengthening the social fabric involve methods other than consulting. Hewlett- by continually democratizing home ownership can Packard doesn't exist to make electronic test and he an enduring purpose, no matter how much the measurement equipment but to make technical world changes. Guided and inspired by this pur- contributions that improve people's lives - a pur- pose, Fannie Mae launched in the early 1990s a se- pose that has led the company far afield from its ries of bold initiatives, including a program to de- origins in electronic instruments. Imagine if Walt Core Purpose Is a Company's Reason for Being 3M: To solve unsolved problems innovatively McKinsey & Company: To help leading corporations and governments be more successful Cargill: To improve tbe standard of living around the world Merck: To preserve and improve human life Fannie Mae: To strengthen the social fabric by Nike: To experience the emotion of competition, continually democratizing bome ownersbip winning, and crushing competitors Hewlett-Packard: To make technical contributions Sony: To experience tbe joy of advancing and applying for tbe advancement and welfare of bumanity technology for the benefit of tbe public Lost Arrow Corporation: To be a role model and a Telecare Corporation: To help people witb mental tool for social cbange impairments realize their full potential Pacific Theatres: To provide a place for people to Wal-Mart: To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the flourish and to enhance the community same things as rich people Mary Kay Cosmetics: To give unlimited opportunity Walt Disney: To make people happy to women HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW September-Octobt-r 1996 69
  6. 6. VISION Disney had conceived of his company's purpose as ite Rock Company of Watsonville, California, won to make cartoons, rather than to make people the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award-not happy; we prohably wouldn't have Mickey Mouse, an easy feat for a small rock quarry and asphalt Disneyland, EPCOT Center, or the Anaheim Mighty company. And Granite Rock has gone on to he one Ducks Hockey Team. of the most progressive and exciting companies One powerful method for getting at purpose is we've encountered in any industry. the five whys. Start with the descriptive statement Notice that none of the core purposes fall into We make X products or We deliver X services, and the category "maximize shareholder wealth." A pri- then ask, Why is that important? five times. After mary role of core purpose is to guide and inspire. a few whys, you'll find that you're getting down to the fundamental purpose of the organization. We used this method to deepen Listen to people in truly great and enrich a discussion about pur- pose when we worked with a certain companies talk about their market-research company. The exec- utive team first met for several hours achievements—you will hear and generated the following state- ment of purpose for their organiza- little about earnings per share. tion: To provide the hest market- research data available. We then asked the follow- Maximizing shareholder wealth does not inspire peo- ing question: Why is it important to provide the ple at all levels of an organization, and it provides best market-research data available? After some precious little guidance. Maximizing shareholder discussion, the executives answered in a way that wealth is the standard off-the-shelf purpose for reflected a deeper sense of their organization's pur- those organizations that have not yet identified pose: To provide the hest market-research data their true core purpose. It is a substitute - and a availahle so that our customers will understand weak one at that. their markets hetter than they could otherwise. When people in great organizations talk about A further discussion let team members realize that their achievements, they say very little about earn- their sense of self-worth came not just from helping ings per share. Motorola people talk about impres- customers understand their markets better but also sive quality improvements and the effect of the from making a contribution to their customers' products they create on the world. Hewlett-Packard success. This introspection eventually led the com- people talk about their technical contrihutions to pany to identify its purpose as: To contribute to our the marketplace. Nordstrom people talk about customers' success by helping them understand heroic customer service and remarkable individual their markets. With this purpose in mind, the com- performance by star salespeople. When a Boeing en- pany now frames its product decisions not with the gineer talks about launching an exciting and revo- question Will it sell? hut with the question Will it lutionary new aircraft, she does not say, 'T put my make a contribution to our customers' success? heart and soul into this project hecause it would The five whys can help companies in any indus- add 37 cents to our earnings per share." try frame their work in a more meaningful way. An One way to get at the purpose that lies beyond asphalt and gravel company might hegin by saying. merely maximizing shareholder wealth is to play We make gravel and asphalt products. After a few the "Random Corporate Serial Killer" game. It whys, it could conclude that making asphalt and works like this: Suppose you could sell the com- gravel is important because the quality of the infra- pany to someone who would pay a price that every- structure plays a vital role in people's safety and ex- one inside and outside the company agrees is more perience; because driving on a pitted road is annoy- than fair (even with a very generous set of assump- ing and dangerous; because 747s cannot land safely tions ahout the expected future cash flows of the on runways built with poor workmanship or inferi- company). Suppose further that this buyer would or concrete; because buildings with substandard guarantee stable employment for all employees at materials weaken with time and crumble in earth- the same pay scale after the purchase but with no quakes. From such introspection may emerge this guarantee that those jobs would be in the same in- purpose: To make people's lives better by improv- dustry. Finally, suppose the buyer plans to kill the ing the quality of man-made structures. With a company after the purchase - its products or ser- sense of purpose very much along those lines. Gran- vices would he discontinued, its operations would 70 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Sept ember-October 1996
  7. 7. be shut down, its brand names would be shelved all know that isn't a eore value around here!") Aspi- forever, and so on. The company would utterly and rations are more appropriate as part of your envi- completely cease to exist. Would you accept tbe sioned future or as part of your strategy, not as part offer? Wby or why not? Wbat would he lost if the of the core ideology. However, authentic core val- company ceased to exist? Why is it important that ues that have weakened over time can he consid- the company continue to exist? We've found this ered a legitimate part of the core ideology-as long exercise to he very powerful for helping hard-nosed, as you acknowledge to tbe organization tbat you financially focused executives reflect on tbeir orga- must work hard to revive them. nization's deeper reasons for being. Also he elear that the role of core ideology is to Another approach is to ask each member of the guide and inspire, not to differentiate. Two compa- Mars Group, How could we frame the purpose of nies can have the same core values or purpose. this organization so that if you woke up tomorrow Many companies could have the purpose to make morning witb enough money in tbe bank to retire, technical contributions, hut few live it as passion- you would nevertheless keep working here? What ately as Hewlett-Packard. Many companies could deeper sense of purpose would motivate you to con- have tbe purpose to preserve and improve buman tinue to dedicate your precious creative energies to life, but few hold it as deeply as Merck, Many com- tbis company's efforts? panies could bave the core value of heroic customer As tbey move into the twenty-first century, com- service, hut few create as intense a culture around panies will need to draw on the full creative energy that value as Nordstrom. Many companies could and talent of their people. But why should people have tbe core value of innovation, but few create give full measure? As Peter Drucker has pointed the powerful alignment mechanisms tbat stimu- out, the best and most dedicated people are ulti- late the innovation we see at 3M. Tbe authenticity, mately volunteers, for they have the opportunity to tbe discipline, and the consistency witb which tbe do something else with tbeir lives. Confronted ideology is lived-not the content of tbe ideology- with an increasingly mobile society, cynicism differentiate visionary companies from the rest of ahout corporate life, and an expanding entrepre- the pack. neurial segment of the economy, companies more Core ideology needs to be meaningful and inspi- than ever need to have a clear understanding of rational only to people inside tbe organization; it their purpose in order to make work meaningful need not he exciting to outsiders. Why not? Because and thereby attract, motivate, and retain outstand- it is the people inside the organization who need to ing people. commit to the organizational ideology over the long term. Core ideology can also play a role in de- Discovering Core Ideology termining who is inside and who is not, A elear and well-articulated ideology attracts to the company You do not create or set core ideology. You dis- people whose personal values are compatible with cover core ideology. You do not deduce it hy looking the company's core values; conversely, it repels at the external environment. You understand it by those whose personal values are incompatible. You looking inside. Ideology bas to be autbentic. You eannot impose new eore values or purpose on peo- cannot fake it. Discovering core ideology is not an ple. Nor are core values and purpose tbings people intellectual exercise. Do not ask. What core values can huy into. Executives often ask, How do we get people to sbare our core ideology? You don't. You can't. Instead, find You discover core ideology people wbo are predisposed to share your core values and purpose; attract looking inside. It has to be and retain those people; and let those who do not share your core values go authentic. You can't fake it elsewhere. Indeed, the very process of articulating core ideology may cause some people to leave when should we bold? Ask instead. What core values do they realize tbat tbey are not personally compatible we truly and passionately hold? You sbould not witb the organization's core. Welcome tbat out- confuse values tbat you tbink the organization come. It is certainly desirable to retain within tbe ougbt to bave-hut does not-with authentic core core ideology a diversity of people and viewpoints. values. To do so would create cynicism throughout People wbo share the same core values and purpose the organization. ("Who're they trying to kid? We do not necessarily all think or look the same. HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW September-October 1996 71
  8. 8. VISION Don't confuse core ideology itself vi'ith core- Identifying core values and purpose is therefore ideology statements. A company can have a very not an exercise in wordsmithery. Indeed, an organi- strong core ideology without a formal statement. zation will generate a variety of statements over For example, Nike has not (to our knowledge) for- time to describe the core ideology. In Hewlett- mally articulated a statement of its core purpose. Packard's archives, we found more than half a Yet, according to our observations, Nike has a pow- dozen distinct versions of the HP Way, drafted by erful core purpose that permeates the entire organi- David Paekard hetween 1936 and 1972. All versions zation: to experience the emotion of competition, stated the same principles, hut the words used var- winning, and crushing competitors. Nike has a ied depending on the era and the eircumstances. campus that seems more like a shrine to the com- Similarly, Sony's core ideology has heen stated petitive spirit than a corporate office complex. many different ways over the company's history. Giant photos of Nike heroes cover the walls, bronze At its founding, Masaru Ibuka described two key plaques of Nike athletes hang along the Nike Walk elements of Sony's ideology: "We shall welcome of Fame, statues of Nike athletes stand alongside technical difficulties and focus on highly sophisti- the running track that rings the campus, and build- cated technical products that have great usefulness ings honor champions such as Olympic marathoner for society regardless of the quantity involved; we Joan Benoit, basketball superstar Michael Jordan, shall place our main emphasis on ahility, perfor- and tennis pro John McEnroe. Nike people who do mance, and personal character so that each individ- not feel stimulated by the competitive spirit and ual can show the hest in ability and skill."' Four the urge to be ferocious simply do not last long in decades later, this same concept appeared in a state- the culture. Even the company's name reflects a ment of core ideology called Sony Pioneer Spirit: sense of competition: Nike is the Greek goddess of "Sony is a pioneer and never intends to follow oth- victory. Thus, although Nike has not formally ar- ers. Through progress, Sony wants to serve the ticulated its purpose, it clearly has a strong one. whole world. It shall be always a seeker of the un- Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals Aid Long-Term Vision Target BHAGs can be quantitative or qualitative Role-model BHAGs suit up-and-coming organizations D Become a $125 billion company by the year 2000 [Wal-Mart, 1990) D Become the Nike of the cycling industry • Democratize the automobile (Ford Motor [Giro Sport Design, 1986) Company, early 1900s) D Become as respected in 20 years as • Became the company most known for changing Hewlett-Packard is today (Watkins-Johnson, 1996) the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese D Become the Harvard of the West products (Sony, early 1950s) (Stanford University, 1940s) • Become the most powerful, the most serviceable, the most far-reaching world financial institution that has ever heen (City Bank, predecessor to Internal-transformation BHAGs suit large, Citicorp, 1915) established organizations D Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age D Become number one or number two in every (Boeing, 1950) market we serve and revolutionize this company to have the strengths of a big company combined with the leanness and agility of a small company Common-enemy BHAGs involve (General Electric Company, 1980s) David-versus-Goliath thinking D Transform this company from a defense contractor into the best diversified high-technology company • Knock off RJR as the number one tobacco in the world (Rockwell, 1995} company in the world (Philip Morris, 1950s) D Transform this division from a poorly respected C Crush Adidas (Nike, 1960s) internal products supplier to one of the most n Yamaha wo tsubusu! We will destroy Yamaha! respected, exciting, and sought-after divisions in (Honda, 1970s) the company (Components Support Division of a computer products company, 1989) 72 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW September-October 1996
  9. 9. known.... Sony has a principle of respecting and en- somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, it conveys couraging one's ability...and always tries to bring concreteness - something visible, vivid, and real. out the best in a person. This is the vital force of On the other hand, it involves a time yet unreal- Sony.'" Same core values, different words. ized-with its dreams, hopes, and aspirations. You should therefore focus on getting the content Vision-level BHAG. We found in our research right-on capturing the essence of the core values that visionary companies often use bold missions- and purpose. The point is not to create a perfect or what we prefer to call BHAGs (pronounced statement but to gain a deep under- standing of your organization's core values and purpose, which Can then be expressed in a multitude of ways. Companies need an audacious In fact, we often suggest that once the core has been identified, man- lO-to-30-year goal to progress agers should generate their own statements of the core values and toward an envisioned future. purpose to share with their groups. Finally, don't confuse core ideology with the con- BEE-hags and shorthand for Big, Hairy, Audacious cept of core competence. Core competence is a stra- Goals|-as a powerful way to stimulate progress. All tegic concept that defines your organization's capa- companies have goals. But there is a difference be- bilities-what you are particularly good at-whereas tween merely having a goal and becoming commit- core ideology captures what you stand for and ted to a huge, daunting challenge-such as climbing why you exist. Core competencies should be well Mount Everest. A true BHAG is clear and com- aligned with a company's core ideology and are of- pelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, ten rooted in it; but they are not the same thing. For and acts as a catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear example, Sony has a core competence of miniatur- finish line, so the organization can know when it ization-a strength that can be strategically applied has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish to a wide array of products and markets. But it does lines. A BHAG engages people-it reaches out and not have a core ideology of miniaturization. Sony grabs them. It is tangible, energizing, highly fo- might not even have miniaturization as part of its cused. People get it right away; it takes little or no strategy in 100 years, but to remain a great compa- explanation. For example, NASA's 1960s moon ny, it will still have the same core values described mission didn't need a committee of wordsmiths to in the Sony Pioneer Spirit and the same fundamen- spend endless hours turning the goal into a verbose, tal reason for being-namely, to advance technology impossible-to-remember mission statement. The for the benefit of the general public. In a visionary goal itself was so easy to grasp-so compelling in its company like Sony, core competencies change over own right-that it could be said 100 different ways the decades, whereas core ideology does not. yet be easily understood by everyone. Most corpo- Once you are clear about the core ideology, you rate statements we've seen do little to spur forward should feel free to change absolutely anything that movement because they do not contain the power- is not part of it. From then on, whenever someone ful mechanism of a BHAG. says something should not change because "it's Although organizations may have many BHAGs part of our culture" or "we've always done it that at different levels operating at the same time, vi- way" or any such excuse, mention this simple rule: sion requires a special type of BHAG-a vision-level If it's not core, it's up for change. The strong version BHAG that applies to the entire organization and of the rule is, // it's not core, change it! Articulating requires 10 to 30 years of effort to complete. Setting core ideology is just a starting point, however. You the BHAG that far into the future requires thinking also must determine what type of progress you beyond the current capabilities of the organization want to stimulate. and the current environment. Indeed, inventing such a goal forces an executive team to be vision- Envisioned Future ary, rather than just strategic or tactical. A BHAG should not be a sure bet-it will have perhaps only The second primary component of the vision a 50% to 70% probability of success-but the orga- framework is envisioned future. It consists of two nization must believe that it can reach the goal any- parts: a lO-to-30-year audacious goal plus vivid de- way. A BHAG should require extraordinary effort scriptions of what it will be like to achieve the goal. and perhaps a little luck. We have helped compa- We recognize that the phrase envisioned future is nies create a vision-level BHAG by advising them HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW September-October 1996 73
  10. 10. VISION to think in terms of four broad categories: target In the 1930s, Merck had the BHAG to transform BHAGs, common-enemy BHAGs, role-model itself from a chemical manufacturer into one of the BHAGs, and internal-transformation BHAGs. (See preeminent drug-making companies in the worid, the insert "Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals Aid Long- with a research capability to rival any major univer- Term Vision.") sity. In describing this envisioned future, George Vivid Description. In addition to vision-level Merck said at the opening of Merck's research facil- BHAGs, an envisioned future needs what we call ity in 1933, "We believe that research work carried vivid description - that is, a vibrant, engaging, on with patience and persistence will bring to in- and specific description of what it will be like to dustry and commerce new life; and we have faith achieve the BHAG. Think of it as translating the vi- that in this new laboratory, with the tools we have sion from words into pictures, of creating an image supplied, science will be advanced, knowledge in- that people can carry around in their heads. It is a creased, and human life win ever a greater freedom question of painting a picture with your words. Pic- from suffering and disease.... We pledge our every ture painting is essential for making the lO-to-30- aid that this enterprise shall merit the faith we have year BHAG tangible in people's minds. in it. Let your light so shine-that those who seek the Truth, that those who toil that this world may For example, Henry Ford brought to life the goal be a better place to live in, that those who hold aloft of democratizing the automobile with this vivid de- that torch of science and knowledge through these scription: "I will build a motor car for the great social and economic dark ages, shall take new cour- multitude.... It will be so low in price that no man age and feel their hands supported." making a good salary will be unable to own one and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of Passion, emotion, and conviction are essential pleasure in God's great open spaces.... When I'm parts of the vivid description. Some managers are through, everybody will be able to afford one, and uncomfortable expressing emotion about their everyone will have one. The horse will have disap- dreams, hut that's what motivates others. Ghurchill peared from our highways, the automobile will be understood that when he described the BHAG fac- taken for granted...[and we will| give a large num- ing Great Britain in 1940. He did not just say, "Beat ber of men employment at good wages." Hitler." He said, "Hitler knows he will have to The components-support division of a computer- break us on this island or lose the war. If we can products company had a general manager who was stand up to him, all Europe may be free, and the life able to describe vividly the goal of becoming one of of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, the whole world, including the United States, including all we have known and You must translate the vision cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister from words to pictures with a and perhaps more protracted by the lights of perverted science. Let us vivid description of what it will therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that if be like to achieve your goal. the British Empire and its Common- wealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'" the most sought-after divisions in the company: "We will be respected and admired by our peers.... A Few Key Points. Don't confuse core ideology Our solutions will be actively sought by the end- and envisioned future. In particular, don't confuse product divisions, who will achieve significant core purpose and BHAGs. Managers often exchange product 'hits' in the marketplace largely because of one for the other, mixing the two together or failing our technical contribution.... We will bave pride in to articulate both as distinct items. Gore purpose- ourselves.... The best up-and-coming people in the not some specific goal-is the reason why the orga- company will seek to work in our division.... Peo- nization exists. A BHAG is a clearly articulated ple will give unsolicited feedback that they love goal. Gore purpose can never be completed, where- what they are doing.... [Our own] people will walk as the BHAG is reachable in 10 to 30 years. Think on the balls of their feet.... [They] will willingly of the core purpose as the star on the horizon to work hard because they want to.... Both employees be chased forever; the BHAG is the mountain to be and customers will feel that our division has con- climbed. Once you have reached its summit, you tributed to their life in a positive way." move on to other mountains. 74 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW September-October
  11. 11. Identifying core ideology is a discovery process, envisioned future should be so exciting in its own but setting the envisioned future is a creative right that it would continue to keep the organiza- process. We find that executives often have a great tion motivated even if the leaders who set the goal deal of difficulty coming up with an exciting disappeared. City Bank, the predecessor of Citicorp, BHAG. They want to analyze their way into the fu- had the BHAG "to become the most powerful, the ture. We have found, therefore, that some execu- most serviceable, the most far-reaching world fi- tives make more progress by starting first with the nancial institution that has ever been"-a goal that vivid description and backing from there into the generated excitement through multiple genera- tions until it was achieved. Similar- ly, the NASA moon mission contin- What's needed is such a big ued to galvanize people even though President [ohn F. Kennedy (the leader commitment that when people associated with setting the goal) died years before its completion. see what the goal will take, To create an effective envisioned future requires a certain level of un- there's an almost audible gulp. reasonable confidence and commit- ment. Keep in mind that a BHAG is not just a goal; it is a Big, Hairy, Au- BHAG. This approach involves starting with ques- dacious Goal. It's not reasonable for a small region- tions such as. We're sitting here in 20 years; what al bank to set the goal of becoming "the most pow- would we love to see? What should this company erful, the most serviceahle, the most far-reaching look like? What should it feel like to employees? world financial institution that has ever heen," as What should it have achieved? If someone writes an Gity Bank did in 1915. It's not a tepid claim that article for a major business magazine about this "we will democratize the automobile," as Henry company in 20 years, what will it say? One biotech- Ford said. It was almost laughable for Philip nology company we worked with had trouble envi- Morris-as the sixth-place player with 9% market sioning its future. Said one member of the execu- share in the 1930s-to take on the goal of defeating tive team, "Every time we come up with something Goliath RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and becom- for the entire company, it is just too generic to be ing number one. It was hardly modest for Sony, as exciting - something banal like 'advance biotech- a small, cash-strapped venture, to proclaim the goal nology worldwide.'" Asked to paint a picture of the of changing the poor-quality image of Japanese company in 20 years, the executives mentioned products around the world. (See the insert "Putting such things as "on the cover of Business Week as a It All Together: Sony in the 1950s.") Of course, it's model success story...the Fortune most admired not only the audacity of the goal but also the level top-ten list...the hest science and business gradu- of commitment to the goal that counts. Boeing ates want to work here...people on airplanes rave didn't just envision a future dominated by its com- about one of our products to seatmates...2O consec- mercial jets; it bet the company on the 707 and, later, utive years of profitable entrepreneur- on the 747. Nike's people didn't just talk ahout ial culture that has spawned half a dozen new divi- the idea of crushing Adidas; they went on a crusade sions from within... management gurus use us as an to fulfill the dream. Indeed, the envisioned future example of excellent management and progressive should produce a bit of the "gulp factor": when it thinking," and so on. From this, they were able to dawns on people what it will take to achieve the set the goal of hecoming as well respected as Merck goal, there should be an almost audible gulp. or as fohnson & Johnson in biotechnology. But what about failure to realize the envisioned It makes no sense to analyze whether an envi- future? In our research, we found that the visionary sioned future is the right one. With a crcation-and companies displayed a remarkable ability to achieve the task is creation of a future, not prediction-there even their most audacious goals. Ford did democ- can be no right answer. Did Beethoven create the ratize the automobile; Giticorp did become the right Ninth Symphony? Did Shakespeare create the most far-reaching hank in the world; Philip Morris right Hamlet^ We can't answer these questions; did rise from sixth to first and beat RJ Reynolds they're nonsense. The envisioned future involves worldwide; Boeing did become the dominant com- such essential questions as Does it get our juices mercial aircraft company; and it looks like Wal- flowing? Do we find it stimulating? Does it spur Mart will achieve its $125 billion goal, even with- forward momentum? Does it get people going? The out Sam Walton. In contrast, the comparison com- HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Septemher-October 1996 75
  12. 12. Putting It All Together: Sony in the 1950s Core Ideology Envisioned Future Cote Values BHAG G Elevation of the Japanese culture and Become the company most known for changing the national status worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products • Being a pioneer-not foUov^ring others; doing the impossible Vivid Description D Encouraging individual ability and creativity We will create products that become pervasive around tbe world.... We will be the first Japanese Purpose company to go into the U.S. market and distribute To experience the sheer joy of innovation and the directly.... We will succeed with innovations tbat application of technology for the benefit and pleasure U.S. companies bave failed at - such as the transistor of the general public radio.... Fifty years from now, our brand name will be as well known as any in tbe world. ..and will signify innovation and quality that rival the most innovative companies anywhere.... "Made in Japan" will mean something fine, not something shoddy. panies in our research frequently did not achieve achieved one BHAG and fails to replace it with an- their BHAGs, if they set them at all. The differ- other. NASA suffered from that syndrome after the ence does not lie in setting easier goals: the vision- successful moon landings. After you've landed on ary companies tended to have even more audacious the moon, what do you do for an encore? Ford suf- ambitions. The difference does not lie in charis- fered from the syndrome when, after it succeeded in matic, visionary leadership: the visionary com- democratizing the automobile, it failed to set a new panies often achieved their BHAGs without such goal of equal significance and gave General Motors larger-than-life leaders at the helm. Nor does the the opportunity to jump ahead in the 1930s. Apple difference lie in better strategy: the visionary com- Computer suffered from the syndrome after achiev- panies often realized their goals more by an or- ing the goal of creating a computer that nontechies ganic process of "let's try a lot of stuff and keep could use. Start-up companies frequently suffer what works" than by well-laid strategic plans. from the We've Arrived Syndrome after going pub- Rather, their success lies in building the strength of lic or after reaching a stage in which survival no their organization as their primary way of creating longer seems in question. An envisioned future the future. helps an organization only as long as it hasn't yet Why did Merck become the preeminent drug- been achieved. In our work with companies, we fre- maker in the world? Because Merck's architects quently hear executives say, "It's just not as excit- built the best pharmaceutical re- search and development organiza- -. , . -. , j^ . . tion in the world. Why did Boeing 1 h e D a s i c d y n a m i c 01 v i s i o n a r y become the dominant commercial , . ^ aircraft company in the world? Be- companies IS to preserve the cause of its superb engineering and 1 • 1 TJ. ' marketing organization, which had QOie SLYld S t i m U l a t e p r 1 g r e S S . i t IS O the ability to make projects like the 747 a reality. When asked to name VlSlOn that the the most important decisions that have contributed to the growth and ing around here as it used to be; we seem to have success of Hewlett-Packard, David Paekard an- lost our momentum." Usually, that kind of remark swered entirely in terms of decisions to build the signals that the organization has climbed one strength of the organization and its people. mountain and not yet picked a new one to climb. Finally, in thinking about the envisioned future, Many executives thrash about with mission beware of the We've Arrived Syndrome-a compla- statements and vision statements. Unfortunately, cent lethargy that arises once an organization has 76 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW September-October 1996
  13. 13. VISION most of those statements turn out to be a muddled drop in from outer space and infer your vision from stew of values, goals, purposes, philosophies, be- the operations and activities of the company with- liefs, aspirations, norms, strategies, practices, and out ever reading it on paper or meeting a single se- descriptions. They are usually a boring, confusing, nior executive. structurally unsound stream of words that evoke Creating alignment may be your most important the response "True, but who cares?" Even more work. But the first step will always be to recast your problematic, seldom do these statements have a vision or mission into an effective context for direct link to the fundamental dynamic of vision- building a visionary company. If you do it right, you ary companies: preserve the core and stimulate shouldn't have to do it again for at least a decade. progress. That dynamic, not vision or mission statements, is the primary engine of enduring com- 1. David Packard, speech given to Hewlett-Packard's training sroup on March H, I960; courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Archives. panies. Vision simply provides the context for 2. See Nick Lyons, The Sony Vision [New York: Crown Pubhshers, 1976|, bringing this dynamic to life. Building a visionary We also used a translation hy our Japanese student Tsuneto Ikeda. company requires 1% vision and 99% alignment. .1, Akio Moiiu, Made in lapan [New Yuik: E.P. Dutton, 19861, p. 147. When you have superb alignment, a visitor could Reprint 96501 To order reprints, see the last page of this issue. TOLU Mouse COOKlElS l.oo AHEAD 1 oo ~N& "^o-vX 3: ^ CARTOON BY NICK DOWNES 77