How winning organizations last 100 years

Hill, Alexander, Mellon, Liz and Goddard, Jules (2018) How winning organizations last 100 years. Harvard Business Review, ISSN (print) 0017-8012


The average lifespan of a US S&P 500 company has fallen by 80% in the last 80 years (from 67 to 15 years), and 76% of UK FTSE 100 companies have disappeared in the last 30 years. In stark contrast, organizations in other sectors celebrate their 100th birthday and look like they’ll be here forever. How do they do it? And what can business learn from them? A five year-study of several organizations who have been successful for 100 years or more shows that they do two seemingly incongruous things simultaneously.  First, they have a stable core, or an unchanging organizational purpose. As part of this, many of the organizations that last 100 years seek to engage society, especially through reaching out to children. They look for leaders who will last 10 years or more, and their leadership transitions usually involve a one-year overlap between outgoing and incoming leaders. The second step is to have a disruptive edge, which involves bringing in outside expertise and learning from other sectors (even ones that seem to have nothing to do with yours). Balancing the radical and the traditional helps them stay on top, decade after decade.

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