Kaushal Kurapati\’s blog

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Archive for November, 2006

Clock Building vs. Time Telling

Posted by kaushalkurapati on November 17, 2006

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras explain in “Good to Great” that visionary companies often have a ‘clock building’ culture as opposed to ‘time telling’. What is the difference? Typically an innovative entrepreneur starts a company on the premise of a killer product (or app). The company is a success, but is a one-trick pony. Based on its success, it starts to grow and expand (employees-wise, customers-wise, and geographically). The founder who can delegate and inculcate a strong sense of innovation, execution into his/her management ranks is teaching the organization how to build clocks so that even after s/he is gone the company can continue to ‘tick’. A ‘time telling’ culture would mean that the founder is involved in day-to-day of most products and decisions and no one can make a decision with authority–everyone waits for the chief to certify stuff. This latter kind of company never learns to innovate; its management ranks are made up of followers.

In our Managing Growing Companies class at NYU Stern we studied that L. L. Bean  fit this pattern. Mr. Bean was an innovator who had considerable success. He had a great sense for customer need. It seems that he could not institutionalize this knowledge during his timeperiod. He used to personally check the quality of many of the products L. L. Bean shipped. Obviously that cannot scale when the company ships beyond 10 products. Surely L. L. Bean as a company is very successful and has learnt to overcome its initial challenges.

From my work experience I have noted that giving people the freedom to fail and supporting their decisions–after scrutiny–even when they fail is a way to generate trust and delegate responsibility. Leaders who criticise folks in the company for failing just because they (leaders) weren’t involved is a sure shot way to incorporate time telling into the organization.


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