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Hardcover In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies Book

ISBN: 0060150424

ISBN13: 9780060150426

In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies

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Book Overview

Provides an incisive look at the successful management techniques of IBM, Texas Instruments, 3M, and other profitable American businesses.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Stood the Test of Time

This book was written 22 years ago (in 1982) and seems to have stood the test of time. In fact, the business 'ingredients' delineated in this book have been demonstrated in many major corporations since the book was first published.Essentially the book hinges on 8 basic principles. If any business can put these 8 basic principles into practice, Peters and Waterman say that business can not help but succeed. Now the success may not be as large as Microsoft, but success will occur at one level or the other. If you do not agree then that is fine, Peters and Waterman give several examples of small business that became huge business on the basis of these 8 principles (e.g. Walmart, Hewlett-Packard, Delta Airlines, McDonald's, IBM, etc.). In fact, when you read the book (which is actually structured around describing and demonstrating these 8 principles) you will see why and how these principles actually work.One of the most interesting things I found in this book was the fact that the 8 principles are essentially common sense ingredients. For lack of better way to describe them, 'boy scout' type principles that can be incorporated into business action on an every day basis. The book itself is very interesting, easy to read (even if you are not very interested in reading about businesses, business growth and management, etc.) and easy to understand. There are some great business stories about customers, business action, business men and their thinking, etc. Chapter 4 is quite theoretically and somewhat difficult to wade through, but has some great insights on management, measuring earnings, business theories and strategies, and how culture plays a part in business growth based on a businesses values in relation to the culture as opposed to a business values in relation to just making money.This is one of the better business books I have read in a long while and I do recommend it for anyone who is about to start a business, who actually own a business, or for anyone who merely love reading business books.

The search continues

I read this book again after a gap of nearly 20 years. The world has significantly changed since then and so have the fortunes of many of the "excellent" companies listed in this book. Some have continued to excel, some have made a comeback after facing tough times and some have ceased to exist. Excellence is neither permanent nor an assurance for "lived happily thereafter" ending for a corporate fable. As often mentioned in most management books, the only thing that is permanent is change, and change has been rapid and unforgiving in the last two decades. In this context, is this one time business bestseller flawed in its study and its findings ?. The authors themselves answer this question in their opening remarks - "Authors' Note: Excellence 2003" in this new paperback edition.Theory first. There is a solid attack on the Rational Model ( over emphasis on quantitative approaches to management ) in American business schools which the authors feel is a main cause for the decline of American companies in the third quarter of the twentieth century. The understanding of the human side and aligning people with the Organization's goals through a deep sense of respect and involvement is at the core of success at the excellent companies is the next hypothesis. In their search for excellence, the research leads to eight prominent attributes that are common across the best run companies. All these attributes have direct and significant link to this aspect of the human side of enterprise.The excellent companies have focussed consciously and consistently on rigorously practicing several of the eight attributes. Failure to focus on these have led to setbacks in subsequent years. An outstanding athlete cannot be expected to win gold at all the Olympics in his lifetime. Athletes age and so do companies say the authors. But is there a prescription against aging for companies that are committed to excellence ?This book is liable for criticism on the following counts :- Too much of theory in the first four chapters, mostly borrowed from other earlier management gurus- Descriptive and repetitive- Data insufficiency for backing conclusions- Sample does not cover all industries and restricted to American companies- Talks of the past and ignores prescriptions for the future- Attributes need to be ranked and revisited periodically and perhaps a new list might emergeSeveral books have been written on this topic since this classic was first published in 1982. Many have addressed the points listed above. But this ground breaking book continues to be the pathfinder in all that has followed. Go back to the analogy of the athlete. A gold is a gold at any contest and this book deserves one for its own excellence.

The first management blockbuster and still a classic

Few people can lay claim to having created an industry. TomPeters can.Tom Peters is widely credited with having created themanagement guru industry. Before him it is said that "management thinkers wrote articles in academic journals, gave the occasional seminar, and worked as consultants for a few large corporations". The biggest blockbusters sold under five hundred thousand books. `In Search of Excellence', co-authored with Bob Waterman, is Tom Peters first book and sold over 6 million copies. Its success surprised their colleagues at McKinsey, who had laughed at the idea that Peters and Waterman would keep the royalties, "should the book sell 50 000 copies".Two decades later, `In Search of Excellence' is still one of the most readable management books. The eight characteristics of excellent companies, a bias for action, close to the customer, autonomy and entrepreneurship, productivity through people, hands-on values driven, stick to the knitting, simple form and lean staff, simultaneous loose-tight properties are all still relevant and still ignored today. It is written clearly, painting vivid pictures with anecdotes and examples from real companies.Peters went on to become a megastar in the field of management entertaining, able to charge up to $80 000 for a one day show. The management guru industry is estimated to exceed a billion dollars and management books, including several by Peters himself, now regularly find their way into the best seller list. Peters'later writings have sometimes inspired and sometimes puzzled a new generation of managers.This book is a classic. Great companies struggle to remain on top over an extended period. But the lessons learned endure. END

Ability to Change and Adapt Quickly is a Must for Success

Although this book has become a teenager, it still reminds me of the fun of childhood by reading about all the successes those companies had in their "growing up" years and the problems that many had as they matured and reached older age. This is not a life cycle book, but one that points out some things that caused success for a specific company at a specific point in time. There is a lot to be learned by looking into the cultures and values of those companies. Unfortunately, the eight principles of success culled from this study do not guarantee a wonderful future, or even fleeting success for today's companies. This book is worth rereading because it makes you think about why so many of these companies fell so far. A number of recent studies indicate that the ability to change and adapt quickly is what is needed for long term success. Urgency is key. To prepare for future success, I recommend THE 2,000 PERCENT SOLUTION by Mitchell, Coles, and Metz. It motivates managers to develop new ideas and ideal practices that will leave you better off in any future environment.


Life (and business) are a lot more fun if we are excited and committed to what we are doing. This book reawakens our sense that organizations can be exciting and meaningful places to be, filled with the potential for great results and enormous impact. We all have been touched by an outstanding leader and inspired to do more. Most of us would have a hard time spelling out what those leaders do. This book is a very practical guide to being a good example and a source of daily inspiration. You can read other books to figure out what to inspire people to do specifically and so forth, but this one is unique. You may find that you do not "get" a particular recommendation. To deepen your understanding, I recommend that you read A PASSION FOR EXCELLENCE in those areas where you are unmoved or unclear. It is filled with examples on the same points as IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE. I also like the title. Finding excellence is a never-ending task for us all. If you want to read a terrific book on how successful companies differ from their less successful competitors, be sure to read BUILT TO LAST. It is also a great companion for IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE.
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