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Collins, J., & Porras, J. (1996). Building Your Company's Vision.
(5), 65-77. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.
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Building Your Company's Vision
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed
while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. The dynamic of
preserving the core while stimulating progress is the reason that companies such as Hewlett-
Packard, 3M, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Merck, Sony, Motorola, and Nordstrom
became elite institutions able to renew themselves and achieve superior long-term performance.
Hewlett-Packard employees have long known that radical change in operating practices, cultural
norms, and business strategies does not mean losing the spirit of the HP Way - the company's
core principles. Johnson & Johnson continually questions its structure and revamps its processes
while preserving the ideals embodied in its credo. In 1996, 3M sold off several of its large
mature businesses - a dramatic move that surprised the business press - to refocus on its enduring
core purpose of solving unsolved problems innovatively. We studied companies such as these in
our research for Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and found that they
have outperformed the general stock market by a factor of 12 since 1925.
Truly great companies understand the difference between what should never change and what
should be open for change, between what is genuinely sacred and what is not. This rare ability to
manage continuity and change - requiring a consciously practiced discipline - is closely linked to
the ability to develop a vision. Vision provides guidance about what core to preserve and what
future to stimulate progress toward. But vision has become one of the most overused and least
understood words in the language, conjuring up different images for different people: of deeply
held values, outstanding achievement, societal bonds, exhilarating goals, motivating forces, or
raisons d'être. We recommend a conceptual framework to define vision, add clarity and rigor to
the vague and fuzzy concepts swirling around that trendy term, and give practical guidance for
articulating a coherent vision within an organization. It is a prescriptive framework rooted in six