SELFIE ASSESSMENT: CEO Brad Smith (foreground, with summer interns) emails his own unedited performance reviews to Intuit’s entire staff every year.
Courtesy of Intuit
By Aaron Pressman
October 20, 2017

The line about it being hard to teach an old dog new tricks is enduring aphorism for a good reason: It’s true.

That’s what makes Geoff Colvin’s new deep dive into the stunningly durable success of tax-software maker Intuit such a gem. Intuit is well into its fourth decade, an age few software companies survive in top form. And yet as Colvin elegantly describes, Intuit is doing more than surviving. It is thriving.

Its management tricks include many of the bromides management-theory gurus like to state: Be transparent. Reinvent yourself. Listen to your customers.

The difference is that Intuit, especially under the leadership of Brad Smith, who has been CEO for 10 years, has perfected processes for truly embracing these maxims. As a result, it has been shockingly successful—Colvin enumerates the financial metrics that prove it—at staying a step ahead. As an example, Intuit created an open platform to allow even its competitors to build products on top of Intuit’s. Revenue was neither the goal nor the result. Rather, the move resulted in greater loyalty by Intuit’s customers.

These are merely the highlights of enlightening article. Colvin goes deeper on other Intuit precepts, including the value of small teams (raise your hand if you’re part of a project whose team rosters keep growing); openness leading to faster decision making (anyone work someplace where senior management hoards information?); and punishment-free acknowledgement of mistakes, particularly by top brass (as if!).

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One other thing … there’s a lovely anecdote in this article about CEO Smith being criticized for being too nice. Having known him for years, I can attest to Smith’s niceness. He’s a gentleman in a business community where that quality can be in short supply. Sometimes nice guys finish on top.

Have a great weekend.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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