What is a Great Enterprise?
What’s a great enterprise? I mean, how would you know? Not how you build one. That’s what the twelve questions are going to help you get, what are the inputs, what are the things that create a great company? But what is one? To be a great enterprise of any type, you must achieve three outputs. One, superior results; two, distinctive impact; and three, lasting endurance. Briefly on each of those.
Superior results. Look, if you’re a sports team and you don’t win championships, you’re not great. I mean, you have to find a way to win at your chosen game. If you don’t win, if you don’t deliver exceptional results, if you're a school and you don’t do a great job of educating your kids, if you’re a business and you don’t deliver great return on invested capital, you can’t be considered great. But, you know, results are not enough. Just having high returns would not be enough.
The second, distinctive impact. Think about the following. If your enterprise, if your company, if your organization went away, who would miss you? Would it leave an hole that could not be easily filled by any other institution on the planet? This doesn’t mean you have to be big. Big does not equal great. And great does not equal big. Think of a marvelous local restaurant that would be terribly missed if it went away. It’s not big, but it might be irreplaceable.
And third, lasting endurance—the ability to have great results and a distinctive impact such that people would terribly miss you if you were gone over a long period of time, through multiple generations of leaders and product cycles and technologies. And the key thing is that at some point it cannot depend on any single leader. If your organization cannot be great without you, it is not yet a great organization.
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