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Monday, December 20, 2004

Booz Allen Hamilton Lists The World's Most Enduring Institutions

Booz Allen asked distinguished scholars from respected universities across the United States to identify Enduring Institutions from an unrestricted field of worldwide public and private organizations.Their mandate was to create a definitive list of two in each of five categories based on seven specific criteria. While vastly diverse in origin, mission and size, the finalists share a common trait of having stood the test of time over decades, even centuries. Explained Dr. Ralph W. Shrader, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Booz Allen Hamilton, "An Enduring Institution is one that has changed and grown in unswerving pursuit of success and relevance — yet remained true through time to its founding principles."The ten institutions chosen within each category are:

Academic InstitutionsDartmouth College; Oxford University
Arts and EntertainmentThe Modern Olympic Games; the Rolling Stones
Business and CommerceGeneral Electric; Sony
Government Institutions American Constitution; International Telecommunication Union
Nonprofit OrganizationsThe Salvation Army; the Rockefeller Foundation.

Each institution is recognized for its unique abilities to meet or exceed seven specific criteria for an Enduring Institution:
Innovative capabilities — The capacity to create and modify strategies based on market opportunities and threats.
Governance and leadership — A leadership structure and senior management team that promote an organization-wide commitment to enterprise resilience.
Information flow — A continual flow of information regarding an organization's operations and markets that is evaluated by senior management in making strategic decisions.
Culture and values — A working environment in which the adaptive qualities required for enterprise resilience are cultivated.
Adaptive response — The ability to withstand operational disruptions, market risks and other threats without significantly compromising an organization's effectiveness.
Risk structure — A system for managing risk that doesn't encumber or limit an organization's operations.

Legitimacy — The undisputed, withstanding credibility of an organization within its market.The quality of innovative capabilities is exemplified by all ten organizations but perhaps most notably by General Electric, which has clearly mastered innovation by instilling in its employees a keen ability to sense demographic trends and integrate them with population information to create a diversified product line. Indeed, GE has made research and development a foundation for a company-wide culture of innovation. At GE, there is an expectation innovation will permeate all businesses of the organization, from production and manufacturing to even billing.

Sony is equally an innovator, with a long, distinguished record of stretching product development beyond what is immediately required and extending its innovative capabilities beyond development into unique product promotions. With its flat organizational structure, Sony aggressively encourages innovative ideas no matter where they come from in the company.
Enduring Institutions are similarly noteworthy for their adaptive response, and the American Constitution is an ingeniously adaptable institution, crafted to at once reflect — and if necessary subsequently reject — the temperament of the citizenry at any given point in history. It is not only the oldest written constitution in the world today, it is arguably the best example of adaptive response in any governmental structure.

Equally nimble at adaptivity, panelists agreed, is a group of working-class kids from provincial areas of Great Britain who formed a band in the early 1960s — The Rolling Stones. Although they offered the world their first Farewell Tour in 1972, their seemingly infinite capacity to reinvent themselves and their music while remaining true to their bad-boy image brilliantly illustrates adaptive response.

Dartmouth College demonstrates by its often-challenged yet ultimately triumphant existence a set of internal systems for managing risk. Dartmouth has literally had to fight for survival from its earliest days, time and again emerging a stronger, more viable institution whether facing a legal threat to the college charter, or an internal threat from misguided leadership. Its risk structure has enabled and empowered this institution to survive these crises and emerge the stronger and the better for it.

Effective information flow is a defining characteristic of the Rockefeller Foundation. This Enduring Institution has taken deliberate steps to ensure its trustees get fresh and insightful advice about how best to plan the future direction of the organization. The Foundation has consistently sought out accomplished generalists to lead the organization, critical as a means of insuring uncorrupted information flow from the outside world into the organization.
Another organization notable for its effective information flow is the International Telecommunication Union, founded nearly a century and a half ago in Paris. Bringing together representatives from national governments and the private sector, the ITU exemplifies internally what it represents externally — as a facilitator of information and communication technologies infrastructure. Absent this strong system of information flow, it would have long ago lost the adaptability that has enabled it to respond effectively to changing political and economic conditions that characterize its environment and the ever-changing technologies it seeks to regulate.

The leadership structure of an Enduring Institution must promote an organization-wide commitment to enterprise resilience. The Olympics, revived in 1894 by Pierre de Coubertin, is governed by just such a structure in the form of the Olympic Organizing Committee. Its broad mission is to ensure continuity of the universal event, and in spite of threats from over-commercialization and corruption, the IOC has been able to rely on its unique governance structure to pull through these storms. Because members of the IOC serve as representatives of the Olympics within their respective countries, they are granted the independence necessary to ensure decisions are made in the best interest of the Games, not any individual country.

While culture and values necessary for endurance are readily apparent in all ten organizations, one, The Salvation Army, is iconic in its ability to motivate and inspire its workforce. The Salvation Army's skill is in creating the culture and expressing the values that make its own endurance possible. As an "army" it broadcasts this culture through simple but effective practices, such as the readily recognizable uniform it asks volunteers and workers to wear.

The final quality supporting and defining endurance is legitimacy, and each Enduring Institution clearly meets this test, none more than Great Britain's centuries-old Oxford University. With its highly decentralized administrative and academic structure, its legacy of conservatism and its centuries-old traditions, Oxford exudes legitimacy.

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