Executive Summary

Companies that enjoy enduring success have a core purpose and core values that remain fixed while their strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. The rare ability to balance continuity and change–requiring a consciously practiced discipline–is closely linked to the ability to develop a vision. Vision provides guidance about what to preserve and what to change. A new prescriptive framework adds clarity and rigor to the vague and fuzzy vision concepts at large today. The framework has two principal parts: core ideology and envisioned future. Core ideology combines an organization’s core values and core purpose. It’s the glue that holds a company together as it grows and changes. Core values are an organization’s essential and enduring tenets–the values it would hold even if they became a competitive disadvantage; core purpose is the organization’s fundamental reason for being. The second component of the vision framework is the envisioned future. First, a company must identify bold stretch goals; then it should articulate vivid descriptions of what it will mean to achieve them. Henry Ford set the goal of democratizing the automobile, then told the world, “When I’m through…everyone will have one. The horse will have disappeared from our highways”–an imaginative stretch for the time. Unfortunately, the usual vision statement is fuzzy and inspires only boredom. But managers who master a discovery process to identify core ideology can link their vision statements to the fundamental dynamic that motivates truly visionary companies–that is, the dynamic of preserving the core and stimulating progress.

Jim Collins operates a management research laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. He is the author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t (HarperBusiness, 2001), and coauthor, with Jerry I. Porras, of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (HarperBusiness, 2002).

Jerry I. Porras is the Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior and Change at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in Stanford, California, where he is also the director of the Executive Program in Leading and Managing Change. He is a coauthor of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies(HarperBusiness, 1994).