Stimulate Progress, Lots and Lots of Progress

Jim Collins   Built to Last  preserve the core  stimulate progressGreat Leadership Lessons, NOTE 06.
Preserve the Core is the first half of the linchpin idea in Built to Last. Stimulate Progress is the second half.

A few weeks ago I was teaching a seminar to a group of leaders. During that event, I had briefly prepared some material that years ago was a very central paradigm for spiritually formed leadership. In fact, at one time it had been my favorite material. But things changed, I found new ideas that were more interesting and which had more potential. So I stopped using that model.

It had been at least five years since I taught that model/module, but for this occasion, I thought it may be Interesting to take it along. So I pulled it out, dusted it off, refreshed my thinking, realized - hmmm, this is good stuff, and had a great time interacting with the leaders on the material. I may rework it at some point and re-integrate it back into the regular lineup of modules and seminars I teach.

It hit me - as good as it was, when the time came that it no longer was as useful, I dropped it. It was not CORE to who I was and what I was doing. That is the theme for today's leadership lesson.


The Core is your essential purpose and values, the non-negotiable DNA/Culture that defines who you are and why you exist. That must be preserved at all costs.

Then there is everything else. You can call it the Periphery, the Second Things or the Subsidiaries.  To use any of these labels does not suggest these things are not important. In most cases, they are very important. It is just that they are not essential. They can be changed, and in fact, they will need to be changed.

CHANGE . . .

  • Life is happening at a very fast pace.
  • Change is constant, swift, far reaching and complex.
  • Old things go out of date faster than ever.
  • The number of new options soars exponentially.
  • Alternatives abound.

It is simply the nature of life today that CHANGE IS ONE OF THE FEW CONSTANTS.

Therefore, great leadership and great organizations must always be vigilant and diligent about change processes. Constant improvement and steady upgrades are necessary. At times, evolutionary leaps are needed. 

For all of this, instead of a haphazard, accidental approach, Collins suggest intentional and strategic efforts to "stimulate progress."

The relentless drive for progress is what propels organizations (and people) forward. Carpe diem or better, carpe manana is the approach (seize the day, seize tomorrow). One leader said it this way. "I am not trying to discern what is going on today. I am discerning the future and leading accordingly."

Sam Walton quote  everythign around you is always changingSo, except for your CORE, everything is subject to change. What does that include? Well, it includes:

favorite programs
strategic plans
tactical preferences
tag lines
goals and desired outcomes
customers . . .

all these things, while important, are the secondary things that will ebb and flow as time moves on.

Now, you don't just make changes casually or carelessly; nor because you are bored with the current way of things; nor because someone else is making a change. Your change is always thoughtful and strategic. It does not even have to succeed (more on that in a later post). Stimulate progress, promote change but always with high intentionality and being wisely strategic.

Always with this one LITMUS TEST. The proposed change will advance the COREof the organization.

So - what needs changed in your organization?
How are you stimulating progress?
What is currently in transition in your platform?
What are some things you have held on to for WAY TOO LONG?
What must happen to let go of those things?

This is the way to great leadership. Stimulate progress on everything that is not core to your organization.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International