One of my favorite sources of thought and contemplation of business is the McKinsey Quarterly. In case you are not familiar, McKinsey & Company is one of the leading management consulting firms in the world and a top source of global CEO recruits. Many top authors and analysts also have gone through McKinsey’s organization. The Quarterly is a publication of some of their most esteemed thinkers’ works.
McKinsey Quarterly just celebrated its 50th anniversary and in commemoration of this milestone, Ian Davis, former Managing Director, offered reflections on longevity in business. Coincidentally, Kajima Corporation, Austin’s parent company, is celebrating 50 years in the U.S. this year. Davis’ reflections on this milestone include the assessment of those characteristics that make a long-surviving organization successful and enable it to not only survive, but thrive.
In assessing those things that contribute to longevity, Davis explores what causes the demise of companies: from external factors ranging from competition, failure to adapt to technology, and natural disasters, to internal factors that can be more related to the fact that Companies are made up of human beings with their own failings and faults. But what do companies that succeed over long periods of time have in common?
Davis lists many factors, but the ones that I think are most relevant to Austin and Kajima USA include:
These are qualities I see in Kajima and in the organizations that thrive as part of Kajima’s family. As for Austin, there are a few characteristics Davis lists as common among long-standing organizations that we need to get better at. These include:
Thinking about this internally, how does the individual promote longevity to their own careers and to the companies that employ them in their individual professional pursuits? Some of Davis’ characteristics can be insightful for the individual, as well as the organization:
Davis observes and agrees that each of these characteristics has their own risks and conflicts. He quotes former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner, in saying, “There’s a ditch on both sides of the road.” Interesting quote.
My take on it is that like it or not, we’re on that road. We have three options. Move backward, move forward, or stand still. If we stand still, we get run over by those going forward. If we go backward, we get also get run over by those going forward, but the impact is greater. We really only have one option, and we better be working toward that direction if we are going to not just survive, but thrive.
Inherent in organizational longevity, thankfully, is a corporate intuition that “we’ve been down difficult roads before and managed to survive and learn from these experiences.” That confidence is critical in challenging times and can be a differentiating factor for the survivors.
“You can't do today's job with yesterday's methods and be in business tomorrow.”
George W. Bush
“If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if it’s not excellent, it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing there?”
“Business, more than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight.”
Henry R. Luce