When I was in college and working at my first software start-up, my buddies (colleagues) and I were flown into a company to meet with some project managers etc. about collaborating. This was a big deal for us, we were all in college (high school) or about to be and this would be our first major customer.
I was the "experienced" member of the team (CEO) being all of 21. We introduced ourselves and backgrounds. I explained, that I was studying anthropology, this got a laugh from the mid-level manager I was meeting with. He wanted to know what "good" anthropology was.
I explained to him that within 5 minutes of walking through his company, I had identified indicators of it values, belief system and organizational structure. As I get older, I realize that a field anthropologists viewpoint can identify a lot of interesting things about a company that may be more important than the balance sheet.
The book Less is More by Jason Jennings, is a study in productivity. It is similar to Good To Great in that it seeks to capture the traits of winning companies. Most of the you will have heard of. The general consensus is that it is culture. Whether it is NUCOR Steel, RyanAir, IKEA, or other world productivity champions, the final assessment is that culture and values are what allow these firms to win again and again. The traits identified with runaway corporate success are:
- Attention to Detail
- High Moral Fiber
- Embracing simplicity
- Long-Term Focus
- Disdain of Waste
- Coaching style of leadership
- Rejection of Bureaucracy
- Belief in others
Taken out of the full context of the book, they sound like obvious platitudes. They aren't. Think about it, how many b-school courses have these as titles. How many companies acknowledge individuals for these attributes.
The companies highlighted in the book live and breath these values even when they appear out of fashion. Think of "Creative accounting", Greed is good ethos, EGO based leadership etc.
There are some great quotes from the book:
Men stumble over the truth from time to time. But most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. Winston Churchill
Management is doing things right; leadership is doing right things. Peter Drucker
According to Less is more the average life of a corporation is 12 years. The ones that count are the ones that instill values in people that extend to serving customers with humility and value. I think thats important. Reading this book combined with a bunch of other reading I have recently been doing has made appreciate the value of culture in a corporation.
Recently I have been assessing the value of technology companies, I firmly believe that the only great competitive advantage a firm can have is its culture. Patents, markets and brands come and go, but if a solid culture with the 11 traits mentioned above is lived and breathed by all the members of an organization, then they really have something powerful.