I recently stumbled across some coverage of a fascinating but unpublished report by the Royal Dutch/Shell Group (Shell). The purpose was to uncover what makes the difference between a long and short lived company. I must point out that the report was unpublished for good reasons – being based on too small a statistical sample, lacking detailed documentation and not submitted to a rigorous review process. So a tribal-lore report if you like.
Although it was based around the Fortune 500-sized organisation its 4 key findings appear rational for every business to me and for that reason I thought I would share them.
The driver for doing the research was the fact that in the 1930s the average age of a large company was 60-70 years however in more recent times this had plummeted to 15 or less – why?
The article I came across was written by one of the original researchers and the full detail can be read here.
My reading of the 4 key traits of a long lived company are:
1. Agility to respond to the environment it operates in.
2. A strong identity and sustainable culture.
3. Accepting of autonomy and experimentation at the fringes.
4. The capacity to manage its own growth and evolution.
For me these key traits speak to the concept of change – the ability of a company to identify, initiate and incorporate change to the inputs and outputs of their business whilst still remaining true to “who we are and what we stand for”.