posted 8 May 2003 in Volume 6 Issue 8
Book review: The Committed Enterprise
Bruce Lloyd reviews The Committed Enterprise: How to Make Vision and Values Work.
TITLE: The Committed Enterprise: How to Make Vision and Values Work
AUTHOR: Hugh Davidson
PUBLISHER: Butterworth-Heinemann (2002)
Everyone knows it is much easier to describe a vision and values than to implement them successfully. Too often the role and links between the subjects are dismissed because they are not seen to work in practice.
This book challenges this gap and shows how it is possible to build organisations, whether business, charities, hospitals or orchestras, where vision and values need to be systematically, creatively and effectively managed. It is not easy, but it is an essential element in any successful organisation.
The author wrote the best-selling Offensive Marketing books and he has worked in 15 countries. He was a marketing manager with Procter & Gamble, then president of International Playtex in Canada and Europe, and founding chairman of Oxford Corporate Consultants, a strategy consultancy company. He was for many years chairman of the Trading Committee at Save the Children. He is also a visiting Professor of Marketing at Cranfield Business School. This polymath background enables the author to produce a special perspective on both content and presentation.
The content of the book is full of sound common sense but the real benefit comes from the highly user-friendly presentation. In fact, there are two very different ways to read the book. Charts or illustrations occupy the left-hand page (fast-track reading), while the more detailed explanations (the scenic route) is provided on the right. The material has been distilled from two years research that involved 136 individual interviews undertaken by the author, 43 per cent from the non-profit sector.
This is a subject, like many others, where there are no absolute answers. Values without products and customers will get organisations nowhere. But products and customers without vision and values rarely survive for long.
The underlying theme is the need to re-discover the role of values and the need to integrate these effectively into a vision that also includes all the other factors necessary for organisational success.
At its core is an exploration of seven ‘best-practice’ themes: building foundations; measuring the strength of the vision, including issues associated with the timing and building the new vision; creating hard values for sustainable advantage; emotional activism (‘walking the talk’); creating systems to embed the vision and values; branding the new ‘commitment’; and combining that with the vital dimension of measuring performance.
The scientific revolution, confirmed by the Taylorist approach to management, argued that the more effective production of information would, of itself, be all that was necessary to make better decisions. Up to a point its proponents were right. But this is not, by any means, the whole answer. More reliable information is important, but it is not just a technical exercise. The whole concept of ‘better’ is, in the end, a values-driven subject. Today it is becoming more important to try to make this values agenda more explicit, especially as it is such a critical factor is the implementation of any successful vision.
The detailed approach taken by the author shows how to lay the foundations for success through an understanding of the conflicting needs of stakeholders and then uniting them through the appropriate use of vision and values. It is the forging of these two elements that provide the uncompromising commitment that can transform organisations, teams and even countries. The author rightly maintains that this is not just a technical exercise; it needs to be been seen to come from the heart.
But what has all this to do with knowledge management? The word ‘knowledge’ doesn’t even merit a mention in the index! The answer is simple. The book is full of knowledge that is vitally important for the success on any organisation. It is, though, generally considered to be tacit, or implicit, knowledge, and it is an area too frequently ignored by KM literature. Not only should the book be widely read by those concerned with knowledge management, but readers need to recognise that the subject itself is revealing knowledge that is at the very core of any approach to effective knowledge management that is ultimately concerned (as it should be) with organisational success.
Overall this is a book full of sound, readable advice that can provide a useful guide to help organisations explore attitudes and behaviours that should help improve the level of commitment and the quality of decision making.
Bruce Lloyd is professor of Strategic Management at South Bank University. He can be contacted at email@example.com