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Through the MF Lens - Centennials

Phil Hayes
February 29, 2024

It's time for MF's Founder, resident bookworm and published author - Phil Hayes  - to share his thoughts on a title he's encountered recently...

What is the book called & who wrote it? 

“Centennials – The 12 Habits of Great, Enduring Organisations” by Professor Alex Hill

What’s it about? 

Centennials is a study of great organisations that have endured for one hundred years or more. Alex Hill has studied organisations as diverse as NASA, the New Zealand All Blacks, The Royal Shakespeare Company and Eton college, as well as many global technology and manufacturing giants. His research tells us that sustained organisational success is demonstrably underpinned by a consistent combination of common key factors.

Why is reading this book important for organisations / individuals? 

For organisations this is like a blueprint for sustainable success – a sustainability code. For us consultants working with companies on their culture and leadership, it is a wonderful handbook, offering diagnostic tools, research evidence and compelling stories.

What are the key learnings to take away from this book? 

The main lessons are about culture. The many engaging case studies show that the key concept to sustaining organisations for the long-term is the balance, or mix, of a stable core with a disruptive edge.  

It is heartening to see that cultures that win out in the long term are the good guys – organisations that make a positive social difference and enhance the lives of the people working within. These successful organisations usually embrace maximum diversity, reach out to the young, encourage cross fertilisation of ideas, and promote trust and healthy social interaction. They frequently offer space for people to hang out, chat and eat together on a regular basis. They tend to be open in their dealings with the public, but also cautious in ensuring they recruit the right people. They tend to operate with a small stable core of staff.

Why should I read this book? 

Well, it depends on your point of view. If you are a leader, Centennials should become a book you keep in your desk draw and refer to frequently and regularly. If you are a consultant, you have a perfect handbook on positive organisational culture. There are so many valuable pointers on offer. Alex has done a wonderful job in bringing to life the lessons of his extensive and diligent research, and making fully accessible the practical habits and behaviours that winning organisations use.

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