Clock-Building, not Time telling

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Author: Future Manager Research Center

It is possible that the expression “clock-building, not time telling” sounds somewhat strange to you.

However, the metaphor of the clock perfectly explains what it means to create a successful company. In order to build an organization that lasts over the years, it is necessary to have one of the rarest and most precious assets, that is, time. It is a long process that is very similar to the construction of a clock: first of all it takes very specific skills, it is in fact almost impossible to build it in total autonomy without asking for help from an expert. Therefore, every small mechanism must fit perfectly together otherwise the hands of the clock will never move and we will never be able to make the most of the effort we have invested to build it.

Now let’s further extend the metaphor and try to apply it to the leaders of a company, returning precisely to that “strange” opening expression. The concept of “Clock building, not time telling” was introduced by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in the book Built to Last. Let us dwell for a second on a quite surreal scenario, and I refer to the way in which Porras and Collins explain what a charismatic and visionary leader is for them.

So let’s imagine that we are in the presence of an individual with extraordinary abilities, a person who is the only one in the world who is able to indicate the exact time at any time, as if it were a sort of living clock. In itself, this talent is somewhat surprising, you will say, however think about how even more extraordinary is an individual capable of building a watch that allows anyone to know the exact time even when this person is no longer there. He would no longer be just a “time teller”, but a “clock-builder”.

Let’s introduce now the application of this metaphor in the corporate landscape. A great leader is not the one who shows off his innate ability or his power, the perfect boss instead shares and compares himself as much as possible with his employees, so as to create a lasting organization that, as for the “clock builder ”, It will go on even after him.

Even in the Human Resources department, executives must be committed to conveying to employees how much their contribution is essential for the functioning of the company, enhancing diversity and communicating effectively.