Compass: Creating Exceptional Organizations: A Leader’s Guide by William F. Brandt, Jr.


Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Compass, subtitled “Creating Exceptional Organizations: A Leader’s Guide,” by William F. Brandt, Jr., is a how-to guide for business leaders. It provides the principles, processes, and tools business leaders need to build what the author refers to as “Exceptional Organizations.” What’s more, Compass is filled with lessons that provide business leaders the education, training, and tools that are necessary to support change and progress.

William F. Brandt declares right from the start of Compass that capitalism, whose premise is that “the pursuit of self-interest not only the individual but society,” is a good thing. But, the author believes that capitalism “does have its limitations,” and that sometimes if companies zealously pursue their own self-interests, the result can be that they may hurt their own stockholders and “disrupt the world financial markets.” Brandt suggests that businesses can be very successful through both pursuing their own self-interests, while at the same time expressing their “concern for others.”

To this end, the author has divided Compass into five sections, each designed to provide business leaders with useful knowledge to lay the groundwork to build their companies into “Exceptional Organizations,” like the one which William F. Brandt, Jr., himself, headed: American Woodmark. Brandt was the co-founder and former CEO of American Woodmark Corporation, the third largest cabinet manufacturer in the nation, whose sales have grown to over $600 million.

Brandt writes about American Woodmark Corporation in the first section of Compass, using it as a shining example of how an organization can both pursue its own self-interests but yet also help out society in general and demonstrate concern for others.

Any “Exceptional Organization” must be viable — that is, they must, according to Brandt, “achieve their purposes while acting according to society’s highest values.” Also, they must be sustainable — they have to “remain viable over time.” Thirdly, they must be valued — the companies’ “owners, employees, clients, providers, and communities benefit more than [they would] with your competitors.”

The other sections of Compass are Essays, Lessons, An Interview, and Implementation. Each of these sections aims to further the ultimate goal that companies should have of becoming “Exceptional Organizations.” The essays collected in the section Essays are “designed to challenge traditional beliefs about organizations and offers readers new perspectives.”

In the section titled Lessons, business leaders will gain the tools and training the need “that when applied will form a framework for creating exceptional organizations.” These lessons, like the essays, are divided into four categories: “The Vision.” “The Leader,” “Processes and Tools,” and “The Journey.”

The section called An Interview is “an interview with John P. Howe, III, M.D.” He is the CEO of Project HOPE, “an international humanitarian aide organization.” This interview, besides being very interesting and of itself, serves the purpose of showing readers of Compass that organizations other than companies can use the principles and lessons presented in Brandt’s book to become exceptional and successful.

Then, in the section Implementation, Brandt gets into how organizations can implement the information included in Compass. It’s a step-by-step guide for deciding whether an organization should undertake a broadbased initiative to becomes exceptional, and if it should, how it should proceed.” This section also includes the author’s “closing perspective.”

As William F. Brandt, Jr., notes, becoming an “Exceptional Organization” doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t come without some costs. But, Compass is an excellent guide to, like actual compasses, point companies in the right direction towards both improving their bottom lines and also towards benefiting society at the same time. Compass is a Must-Read for all business leaders who want to make their companies even more successful.

Purchase Compass: Creating Exceptional Organizations: a Leader’s Guide

Leave a Reply