September 2014

As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - December 2003

We must pursue goals that will cause us to stretch, think and grow. Good enough never is. There is no finish line in our pursuits. We should never "have it made."

2003-2004 ASSE President James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP

Built to Last

Several years ago, James Collins and Jerry Porras wrote the book Built to Last. In it, they share information gleaned from their study of Fortune 500 companies. In that study, they looked at factors such as management style, culture and values in order to determine how such factors helped these companies achieve success year after year.

The findings are revealing. Success-sustaining companies provide goods and services that are user-friendly, serve a distinct purpose, are widely accepted and readily available. These companies build clocks rather than just tell time; they are architects, not just carpenters. They focus on developing and building systems rather than on merely achieving compliance. Truly great companies embrace the genius of the "and" and virtually eliminate the tyranny of the "or."

This research also dispels several myths. Among them:

  • It takes a truly great idea to start a company.
  • Success requires a charismatic leader.
  • The primary purpose of business is to maximize profit.
  • All companies share common values.
  • Top-line companies play it safe.
  • The primary focus is on beating the competition.
  • You become visionary through great vision statements.

What does this have to do with ASSE? As the Society nears its 100th year of service, we should look at the findings detailed in Built to Last and ask ourselves several key questions: We've made it through the past 93 years, but are we built to last? Can we effectively meet member needs? Do we provide a distinct purpose? Are we and our body of knowledge easily accessible? When we meet, debate and make crucial decisions, are we "building the clock" or just telling time? Are we architects of our profession or just practitioners who are good at writing procedures? Are we building systems or merely writing rulebooks?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, what are we to do? How do we help ASSE reach the 100-year mark, then prepare it for the next 100? There is no definitive answer to any of these questions. However, we can learn from the research by Collins and Porras and build a foundation for the future. We can create a culture that is driven by strategy and vision-a vision that is truly actionable, not merely words on a page.

To do so, we must be guided by what Collins and Porras call BHAGs-big, hairy, audacious goals. An example in safety is zero injuries. This goal will never be achieved unless SH&E professionals establish it as a target and work tirelessly toward its attainment. As we plan for the future and evaluate ASSE's strategy and vision, we must include BHAGs that will cause us to stretch, think and grow. Good enough never is. There is no finish line in our pursuits. We should never "have it made." And if we do find ourselves in a comfort zone, we must seek new challenges. BHAGs will help us do that. Help us define some of the goals by completing the survey at

There are no shortcuts when building systems that last. Great companies don't wait for others to prove concepts, yet they are smart when taking risks. Hard work, consistently applied to the right issues, has provided top-performing companies with long-term growth and success. We must learn from them to make sure ASSE is built to last.

James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP