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Tom Peters and Robert H Waterman Jr - In Search Of Excellence summary

Tom Peters and Robert H Waterman Jr - In Search Of Excellence summary

The seminal management book In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, was published in 1982, and remains one of the one of the biggest selling and widely read business books ever. Peters said finally in his 2001 interview that were he to write In Search of Excellence today, he would not tamper with any of the eight themes, but he would add to them: capabilities concerning ideas, liberation, and speed.

Here is a summary of the 'In Search of Excellence' eight themes, which also form the eight chapters of the book.

In Search of Excellence - the eight themes-

1.       A bias for action, active decision making - 'getting on with it'.
2.       Close to the customer - learning from the people served by the business.
3.       Autonomy and entrepreneurship - fostering innovation and nurturing 'champions'.
4.       Productivity through people - treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
5.       Hands-on, value-driven - management philosophy that guides everyday practice - management showing its commitment.
6.       Stick to the knitting - stay with the business that you know.
7.       Simple form, lean staff - some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
8.       Simultaneous loose-tight properties - autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.

In Search Of Excellence summary
Peters and Waterman found eight common themes which they argued were responsible for the success of the chosen corporations, which have become pointers for managers ever since. In Search of Excellence didn't start out as a book, as Tom Peters explained when interviewed in 2001 to mark the 20th anniversary of In Search of Excellence: Peters and Waterman were both consultants on the margins of McKinsey, based in the San Francisco office. In 1977 McKinsey director Ron Daniel launched two projects; the first and major one, the Business Strategy project, was allocated to top consultants at McKinsey's New York corporate HQ and was given star billing. Nothing came of it. The second 'weak-sister' project (as Peters called it) concerned Organisation - structure and people. The Organisation project was seen as less important, and was allocated to Peters and Waterman at San Francisco. Peters travelled the world on an infinite budget, with licence to talk to as many interesting business people he could find about teams and organisations in business. He had no particular aim or theory in mind. In 1979 McKinsey's Munich office requested Peters to present his findings to Siemens, which provided the spur for Peters to create a 700-slide two-day presentation. Word of the meeting reached the US and Peters was invited to present also to PepsiCo, but unlike the hyper-organised Siemens, the PepsiCo management required a tighter format than 700 slides, so Peters produced the eight themes.

The platform for Peters and Waterman, onto which the In Search Of Excellence research and theorising was built, was the McKinsey 7-S model:
McKinsey 7-S model elements
  1. structure
  2. strategy
  3. systems
  4. style of management
  5. skills - corporate strengths
  6. staff
  7. shared values

Peters and Waterman examined 43 of Fortune 500's top performing companies. They started with a list of 62 of the best performing McKinsey clients and then applied performance measures to weed out what they thought to be the weaker companies. General Electric was one of the casualties which failed to make the cut. Peters says that one of his personal drivers in carrying out his research was to prove that certain established methods - particularly heavily systemised philosophies and practices - were wrong, notably those used by Xerox, and advocated by Peter Drucker and Robert McNamara. Peters says that he wanted - with a passion - to prove how crucial people are to business success, and to release business from the 'tyranny of the bean counters'.
As Peters explained in 2001: 'Start with Taylorism, add a layer of Druckerism and a dose of McNamaraism, and by the late 1970's you had the great American corporation that was being run by bean counters...'
(Bean counter: A person, typically an accountant or bureaucrat, perceived as placing excessive emphasis on controlling expenditure.)
Contrast this with what Peters says became the essential message of In Search of Excellence, simply:
·         People
·         Customers
·         Action
Peters says that In Search of Excellence turned these 'soft' factors into hard ones, when previously the only 'hard factors were considered to be the 'numbers'.
Peters also said in 2001 that other than certain wrong companies highlighted - Atari and Wang for instance - In Search of Excellence 'absolutely nailed the eight points of the compass for business at that time' (1982), but that its central flaw was in suggesting that these points would apply for ever, when they most certainly have not.
Illustrating some other practical aspects of ‘In Search of Excellence’ below-

EXCELLENCE. Now. EXCELLENCE. Always.--Tom Peters

People first, second, third, fourth …
The “business” of leaders is people: to inspire/engage/provide a trajectory of opportunity—enterprise of every size and type as “cathedral” for human development.
"When I hire someone, that's when I go to work for them.” —John DiJulius

1A. Customer comes 2nd/ If you want to best “Wow!” customers, then you must first Wow! those who serve the customers.
"If you want staff to give great service, give great service to staff.”—Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman's/
“You have to treat your employees like customers.” —Herb Kelleher, on his #1 “secret to success.”
1B. Manager’s sole raison d’être: Make each of my team members successful!
1C. Effective organizations: No bit players!
1D. Appreciation.  Acknowledgement. “The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated.” — Believe it!  A few kind words are often remembered for years!
1E. 1st line supervisors. Every organization’s … most important … leadership cadre. Productivity is largely determined by the caliber of the 1st line boss.
 Selection and development of your “sergeants” must become an “obsession”—almost all do a half-assed job. 
1F. Weird/ There are no “normals” in the history books! /Insure a healthy supply of oddballs/Diversity of every flavor = Fresh perspectives! Better decisions!
1G. Memories That Matter. And don’t. / “People stuff” sticks with you: You’ll look back on the handful of people you developed who proceeded to change the world—and the multitude (if you’ve earned it) who say, “I grew most when I worked with you.” Ever seen a tombstone engraved with the deceased’s net worth?
2. You/me: Businesses no longer coddle. You’re in charge! / “Brand you”—stand out for something valuable, or else; learn something new every day, or else! /“Distinct or Extinct!”

3. Organizations Exist to Serve. PERIOD.

4. EXECUTION/ “Don’t forget to tuck the shower curtain into the bath tub.” —Conrad Hilton on his “sweat the details” obsession and #1 “success secret”/
“Execution is strategy.” —Fred Malek
“Execution is the leader’s job #1.”—Larry Bossidy

4A. “They do … ONE BIG THING at a time.” —Drucker on successful managers’ #1 trait.
4B. Resilience circa 2011:  Understand it. Hire for it.  Promote for it. Obsess on it.

5. MBWA/Managing By Wandering Around/ Starbucks’Schultz visits 25 stores a week/ “In touch” is “not optional”/You = Your calendar/Calendars never lie!
5A. Listening per se = Candidate for Core Value #1/Listening per se is a profession. /“If you don’t listen, you don’t sell anything.”/Docs interrupt patients after
      … 18 seconds. And you? 

5B. “What do you think?” “How can I help?” —MBWA
      8/Eight words, repeated like a mantra while “wandering around,” that unlock engagement/ success for multitudes.
5C. Innovate by “Hanging out” /“You are what you eat.”/ “You will become like the five people you associate with the most —a blessing or a curse.”/

      Want “cool”? Expose yourself to cool! /Manage “hanging out” zealously-formally —with customers, interesting outsiders, etc.
5D. K = R = P (Kindness = Repeat business = Profit.)
      “Hard is soft. Soft is hard.” —#1 finding In Search of Excellence.   Kindness is “hard”—and pays off in $$$$.
5E. Apology Power—Awesome power: 3-minute “I’m sorry” call heals anything—do it religiously! /”Over- the-top” response to even small booboo strengthens customer relationships!
6. “Little BIG Things”/Focus on “multipliers”: Wal*Mart goes to big shopping cart = +50% “big stuff” sales boost! /“Wash your Hands” —save thousands of lives P.A. in hospitals!
6A. “Little BIG Things”: SMEs bedrock of all economies. Nurture them. SME’s battle cry per George Whalin: “Be the best. It’s the only market that’s not crowded.”
7.  Apple > Exxon in market cap courtesy … DESIGN! /The big “Duh”: “Cool beats un- cool!”/Design candidate for “best way to differentiate goods-services in competitive markets.”
7A. TGRs/Things Gone Right.  Wagon Wheel restaurants, Gill MA—clean restroom with fresh flowers.—we remember such touches more or less forever/      Manage-measure TGRs.
7B. Scintillating Experiences.  Howard Schultz on Starbucks: “At our core, we’re a coffee company, but the opportunity we have to extend the brand is beyond coffee; it’s entertainment.”
8. WOMEN Buy! WOMEN Rule! WOMEN’s World!  Women buy 80% of everything—$28T world market/“Why Warren   Buffett Invests Like a Girl”—e.g., studies harder-holds longer-less frenzied buying and selling/Women’s leadership style fits  21st century less-hierarchical enterprise./Evidence clear—
Women well on the way to 21st century economic domination!  Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff at UN: “the century of women.”

9. Web-Social Media/ “Everyone becomes our valued partner, a member of our community—and watchdog”/The Power of Co-creation —my “Top Biz
    Book for 2010”/SM can be lynchpin of transformative strategy—for organizations of every shape and size!

10. Value added via transformation from “Customer satisfaction” to “customer success” —huge difference- opportunity! /E.g., IBM Global Services, from      afterthought to $60B/UPS Logistics/MasterCard Advisors/ IDEO, help clients create “culture of innovation”/“The Geek Squad”—Best Buy’s #1 strategic      point of differentiation.

11. Innovation “secret” #1: “Most tries wins.” / “A Bias for Action”—excellence trait #1, In Search of Excellence/“Ready. Fire! Aim.” —Ross Perot//
“Instead of trying to figure out the best way to do something and sticking to it, just try out an approach and keep fixing it.” —Bert Rutan
11A. Try a lot = Fail a lot /“Fail. Forward. Fast.”/ “Fail faster, succeed sooner”—David Kelley /
“Reward excellent failures, punish mediocre successes”/Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins —Richard Farson
11B. “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”  —Wayne Gretzky

 12. Live WOW! /Zappos creed … “WOW Customers”/ eBay 14,000 employees, Amazon 20,000  employees, Craig’s List 30 employees; regardless of issue,  Where’s your “Wild and Wooly Craig’s List Option”?/ Final point in superstar adman Kevin  Roberts’ Credo: “Avoid moderation!”

13. EXCELLENCE is a personal choice … not an institutional choice!
     EXCELLENCE is not an “aspiration” —it’s the next five minutes!
13A. EXCELLENCE. Always.  If not EXCELLENCE, What? If not EXCELLENCE Now, When?


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