WHY DO WE NEED THIS BOOK?
During my consulting career, I witnessed many corporate executives struggle with questions such as: How do we achieve sustainable growth? How do we become an admired employer and a respected member of society? What are the best ways to develop a great leadership pipeline?. As an entrepreneur, I was often confronted with similar challenges. Later in my career, when I became a startup investor and mentor, I was often asked: What are the best practices to launch successful startups? How do we go from being a fledgling startup to a large enterprise?. As I reflected on these conversations, I realized that while each of these questions (and many others like them) was asked with respect to a specific concern, they were all related to one common organizational need to pursue lasting success. Essentially, these questions can be combined into one: How do we build an enduring organization that is ethical, profitable and resilient?
My responses to my colleagues’ questions, while based on available information and my best judgment at the time, were perhaps incomplete. Thus, began my quest to find a holistic and effective approach for building enduring organizations. While specific nomenclature varies from “excellent” to “great”, and from “lasting” to “agile”, the principles associated with organizational endurance are well-established: an exciting and shared vision, humanistic values, customer focus and continuous innovation. Industry stalwarts like IBM1 and General Electric2, and newage corporations like Google3, Facebook4 and Uber5 have been working tirelessly to systems and cultures that help build enduring organizations. Additionally, thought leaders such as Jim Collins6, Stephen Covey7 and Tom Peters8 have researched extensively on the characteristics of such organizations.
Most business leaders are keen to learn about building enduring organizations; however, they are unsure of how to translate the associated principles into meaningful everyday actions, especially considering the global socio-economic turmoil. This is where the book comes in. It is the outcome of my fascinating and educational journey to discover the culture, processes and leadership skills that enable enduring organizations. The book elaborates on what sets enduring organizations apart from others, and more importantly, it presents the readers with an actionable framework, which I hope will move the discussions away from the realm of the theory, and closer to real-world implementation.
Unlike the prevalent literature that addresses either the startup or the growth phase of an enterprise, this book covers both: it delves deep into the discipline of launching successful startups, while describing the methods of scaling up existing businesses.
Given the power of startups, and the lessons learned from various startups that have excelled or failed, one would expect a substantial body of knowledge on how to build successful ventures. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of codified knowledge and skills (particularly in our educational institutions) that are essential to initiate and succeed as startups. But for a few evangelists like Steve Blank15, Eric Reis16, Bill Aulet17 and Peter Thiel18, effective guidance is hard to come by. Moreover, there is a sheer lack of processes and practical tools (with the notable exceptions of Alexander Osterwalder’s19 and Ash Maurya’s20 work) that startups can leverage to make their journeys more effective and less risk-prone.
On the other hand, large domestic and multi-national corporations are often handicapped by their legacy and size. Their work cultures are not nimble enough to change, exposing them to competition from disruptive startups. Due to organizational complacency, these corporations are mostly content with making incremental changes or efficiency improvements. They struggle to create sustainable engines of breakthrough innovation and intrapreneurship. While thought leaders like Jim Collins21, Ram Charan22, Stephen Covey23, Dave Ulrich24 and Bill Curtis25 have contributed significantly to make the journeys of such enterprises easier, contemporary learnings are difficult to find. Once again, what is missed most on the ground are not conceptual postulations, but practical and actionable insights
NEED OF THE HOUR: ENDURING ORGANIZATIONS THAT THRIVE
In light of hyper-competition, disruptive technologies and the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, leaders of new and existing enterprises need to work more “on” their businesses more than “in”. To build great businesses they need to think beyond “launching” and “sustaining”, and instead focus on building enduring organizations that thrive.
By definition, building an enduring organization is a long-term commitment. It guides a startup through its early days of establishing itself and building traction; provides forward-looking focus to growing businesses and enables an existing enterprise to re-invent itself – all while delivering great results to immediate stakeholders and society at large. This requires a simultaneous attention on being customer-centric, executing flawlessly, innovating for the future, upholding high standards of social responsibility and creating vibrant work cultures.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. A large number of startup founders and business leaders lack a coherent long-term point-of-view to transform themselves into enduring organization. Even if they appreciate the enormity of the task conceptually, they struggle to translate them into meaningful “how’s” or actions. Hence, they go through an endless pursuit of management fads in search of the elusive silver bullet(s).
The book is written with a strong belief that innovative ideas and individual passion need supporting organizations to nurture, bring them to life, and to channelize them into meaningful outcomes. Great organizations serve as catalysts of personal, economic and social growth. However, history is proof that such organizations are never built by chance. They require a high level of leadership discipline – to create human institutions that out-live specific products, people and socio-economic trends. Hence, at the heart of the book is a systematic approach towards building “enduring” organizations.
In a world riddled with volatility, and obsessed with instant gratification, the book brings fresh insights on building great businesses over time. Best-practices and lessons from some of the most admired organizations in the world, like: GE, Sony, Google and Tata, and well-known startups like Uber and SnapDeal have been curated to offer a practical roadmap – that helps strike a balance between managing current operations while preparing the organization for the future.