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In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-run Companies Paperback – Apr 15 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Profile Books; 2nd Revised edition edition (April 15 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861977166
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861977168
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 481 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #960,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

This is an updated edition of the classic bestseller - the most famous book by the world's most trusted management guru. In 1999 Americans rated "In Search of Excellence" one of the 'top three business books of the 20th century'. In 2000 Bloomsbury published an opinion poll ranking it 'The Greatest Business Book of All Time'. Now it is comprehensively updated for the 21st century by the authors.

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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book after reading many others, some of which referenced this book as "groundbreaking", "a landmark", and the like. While this book makes some good observations, it makes critical mistakes in oversimplifying a lot of its "evidence". Yet it fails to find any ideas that simplify its "eight basic principles".
As an example of a mistaken oversimplification, the book claims that "rationality" always yields negative, i.e. pessimistic, business forecasts, but this fails to understand that projections are guided by assumptions, that in turn are guided by management. Companies that penalize those whose forecasts are too optimistic will encourage its planners to use negative assumptions. Companies that don't, won't.
Many of the "excellent companies" have seen very bad times or were driven out of business completely in the years following the book's release. I think that shows that the authors were missing quite a bit in understanding the real nature of excellence. Fortunately, in subsequent years authors such as John Case (Open-Book Management) and Jack Stack (The Great Game of Business) have hit upon a much simpler yet more complete model for excellence. Not only does their model explain what is correct about The Search for Excellence, but it also explains the correct elements in many management ideas since including "reengineering", "TQM", "Empowerment", and "Six Sigma". I highly recommend their books instead of this one.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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