Built to Become: Corporate Longevity and Strategic Leadership

Built to Become: Corporate Longevity and Strategic Leadership

March 2015Working Paper No. 3115

This paper discusses the phenomenon of “built to become:” an open-ended ongoing process for which there is no grand ex ante plan possible and which unfolds through a series of transformations in the course of the strategic evolution of long-lived companies. It develops a “strategic leadership” framework to examine and explain corporate becoming. This framework involves (1) defining the key tasks of strategic leadership and (2) identifying four key elements of the company’s strategic leadership capability: (i) adopting a strategic leadership regime that integrates top-down and bottom-up strategy processes; (ii) managing the often tortuous interplays between a changing corporate strategy and the existing corporate culture; (iii) balancing strategic resource allocation between fit (with the existing product-market environment) and evolvability (the capacity to seek out new viable product-market environments) in the internal ecology of strategy-making; and (iv) maintaining constructive relationships in the dynamic interactions between the CEO and the board of directors. The paper presents the conceptual foundation of a book entitled Built to Become that examines the strategic evolution of Hewlett Packard as a long-lived company.