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5.0 out of 5 stars 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...
Published on April 2 2004 by T. B. Vick

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3.0 out of 5 stars Management as Science
This publication is a survey written by a couple of McKinsey consultants that seek to define the characteristics of successful, I mean excellent, organizations using the McKinsey 7-S framework; Structure, Systems, Style, Staff, Skills, Strategy, and Shared Values.
Their findings suggest that eight attributes are common for an excellent organization; bias for action,...
Published on Dec 27 2000 by Walter Nicolau


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5.0 out of 5 stars Stood the Test of Time, April 2 2004
By 
This review is from: In Search Of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies (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. 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.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Ahead of its time, but a little behind ours, March 28 2004
By 
Eric Kassan (Las Vegas, NV USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The search continues, March 17 2004
By 
B.Sudhakar Shenoy (India) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: In Search Of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies (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. 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 emerge
Several 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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant today, March 8 2004
By 
This review is from: In Search Of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies (Paperback)
Even though Tom Peters admitted in a Fast Company article that some of the data in the book was faked, I still think it is worth reading because it discusses some key concepts. Ideas such as sticking to what you're best at, achieving productivity through people, and being close to the customer are simple, timeless, and most certainly worth studying.
Some argue that several of the companies that were deemed by the study to be excellent back then are no longer excellent and therefore that hurts the credibility of the book. It's a valid point to an extent but history is full of examples of companies that were once great and then faltered for whatever reason. The key is to figure out what the best companies are doing while they are on top and the book discusses this.
One part of the book I didn't like was the initial part of it where they discuss a lot of historical management theory. If the book were published today, I seriously doubt any editor would let them include that part since it's not very readable. Personally, I don't want to have to weed through too many boring parts before I get to the good material.
In summary, I feel "In Search of Excellence" is by far the best Tom Peters book in print and worth reading.
Greg Blencoe
Author, The Ten Commandments for Managers
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4.0 out of 5 stars A classic whose lessons still offer benefits, March 3 2004
This review is from: In Search Of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies (Paperback)
It is hard to appreciate the impact this book had when it was first released. Some of the cases (business stories) it contains still inspire although some seem a bit dated, but the underlying ideas retain some power if you take time to think about them. As the authors say in the new preface, this is a book about attributes rather than specific recommendations for action. I like their response to those who point out that many of the companies included have since fallen on hard times. They point out that we still learn the past accomplishments of great athletes no longer in their prime.
I think the best points the book makes involve the way people react under pressure in pulling back to numbers, research, and rationality in ways that won't help them. Numbers, research, and rationality are all extremely important, but will not in themselves enable you to innovate and see new ways to compete. Although this isn't in the book, I love the story about the driver side door for the minivans. Chrysler stole the march on that and when one of their competitors was asked why they didn't come out with such an obvious innovation he responded that none of the customers in their focus groups asked for such a feature. Game, set, and match for Peters and Waterman.
This is a book that should still be read. It has a lot more to offer than many business books being printed today at great cost to our forests and our precious time. This is still a keeper.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The book that launched a genre, May 12 2003
By 
therosen "therosen" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This is the book that launched the management guru business, as well as the popular management genre. Previous management authors such as Peter Drucker wrote academic oriented tomes for buisness executives. Tom Peters wrote for the masses.
The book starts with an introduction explaining the problems in the economy (this was the early 80s, when fear of Japan Inc was rising) and why this abstract concept of "Excellence" was needed. In many senses, the book's emphasis of "What's Right in the US" is really it's strongest selling point. In the context of a world where America seemed to be losing it's way, the book provides a rallying cry for places that America is doing things right.
The book the passionately covers general management caveats, such as "Stick to your knitting" with examples of companies providing extensive focus on their core competencies. It is important to note that Tom Peters does not claim to be a great management theorist here - his claim is to capture examples of companies who have figured out "how to be excellent". This is consistent with his academic training - an engineering background with a Phd in Organizational Behavior. He's not developing new business models here, only capturing what others already know to be true.
So how does it hold up over time?
Well, if you believe the naysayers, many of the supposedly excellent companies have gone belly up. Peoples Express airline? If you believe the Tom Peters website, his companies have still managed to beat the S&P 500 over the past 20 years.
Bottom line - The book is still valid. Closeness to customers is still as important as ever. Companies are learning they do need to stick to their knitting. This is a very entertaining and influential book. It's worth reading for the insights, as well as the chance that your customer has read it too. :-)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The eight essential basics of excellent companies, Jan. 26 2002
By 
Gerard Kroese (The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. were consultants with McKinsey & Co. when this book was published in 1982. This book shot both authors into management guru-dom and is still one of the greatest management bestsellers ever. Both authors have written other books, but none have come close to this one.
In this book, the authors report on the findings from the excellent companies: "It will define what we mean by excellence. It is an attempt to generalize about what the excellent companies seem to be doing that the rest are not, and to buttress our observations on the excellent companies with sound social and economic theory." The authors' research started in 1977 when two internal task forces at McKinsey & Co. were set up to research a general concern with the problems of management effectiveness, and a particular concern with the nature of the relationship between strategy, structure, and management effectiveness. One of these task forces was to review thinking on strategy, the other was to review thinking on organizational effectiveness. Peters and Waterman were the leaders of the project on organizational effectiveness. Their research involved talking extensively with executives around the world and extensive literature reviews. Initially they worked mainly on the problem of expanding our diagnostic and remedial kit beyond the traditional tools for business problem solving, which then concentrated on strategy and structural approaches. This resulted in the now well-renowned 7-S framework (structure, strategy, systems, shared values, skills, style, and staff). "But there was still something missing. ... we were shore on practical design ideas, especially for the 'soft S's'." So the authors decided to look at management excellence itself. "We asserted that innovative companies not only are unusually good at producing commercially viable new widgets; innovative companies are especially adroit at continually responding to change of any sort in their environment." The authors labeled the companies that seemed to have achieved that kind of innovative performance as excellent companies.
The authors eventually chose 75 highly regarded companies, in which they conducted intense, structured interviews. Their project showed that the excellent companies were, above all, brilliant on the basics. The authors use eight chapters to discuss in detail the eight attributes that distinct excellent, innovative companies: 1. A bias for action, for getting on with it; 2. Close to the customer; 3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship; 4. Productivity through people; 5. Hands-on, value driven; 6. Stick to the knitting; 7. Simple form, lean staff; 8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties. None of these eight attributes are something special. In fact, they can even be called simple and predictable and the authors refer to them as "motherhoods". Most essential to each of these excellent companies is the intensity within them. This intensity is build on the strongly held beliefs of these companies.
Yes, I do like this book. I must admit that I had heard plenty about this book and had read several reviews before I actually started reading it. The biggest criticism I heard was that the example companies are not so excellent now. Perhaps true, but I do not think that this book is that much about the excellent companies themselves. I believe that it is much more about the attitude of the example companies, the positive culture. Highly recommended to business leaders, managers, and MBA-students. Read it sooner rather than later. The book is written in simple US-English, although it contains quite a heavy literature review.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Management as Science, Dec 27 2000
This publication is a survey written by a couple of McKinsey consultants that seek to define the characteristics of successful, I mean excellent, organizations using the McKinsey 7-S framework; Structure, Systems, Style, Staff, Skills, Strategy, and Shared Values.
Their findings suggest that eight attributes are common for an excellent organization; bias for action, close to the customer, autonomy and entrepreneurship, productivity through people, hands on, value driven, stick to the knitting (=focus on what you do best), simple form lean staff, and simultaneous loose-tight properties (balance between centralized/decentralized organization). This is it.
Although the authors have a pleasant narrative style and are eloquent in making their point, I hesitate to buy into the arguments presented, first and foremost because I question the all encompassing validity of the McKinsey 7-s approach. Secondly, the authors cite companies such as Digital and Wang as qualifying for excellency. Whatever these companies did during the eighties, it wasn't good enough in the end since their advantage was not sustained and hence I wouldn't call them excellent. Thirdly, the best before stamp is obvious.
I do find the introduction and management theory review very well written and enjoyable. Ironically, (for me) the authors find that chapter the least important part of the book. I beg to differ. Overall, this would make a good intro for those interested in management theory. While you're at it, try to also take a look at Michael Porter's and Peter Drucker's work. In my view they are the authority in the field.
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3.0 out of 5 stars selecting on the dependent variable, July 26 2000
By A Customer
I don't have much to add to the other reviews here on the content, but as a couple of reviewers here have pointed out, there's a problem with the way they reached their conclusions. They chose a series of metrics as indicators of "excellence": they ranked companies on these metrics to identify a sample of "excellent companies": they then profiled these companies to find common features. Statisticians call this "selecting on the dependent variable": all excellent companies might have a certain feature, but you can only say that the feature has something to do with their excellence if non-excellent companies don't have it. The features that Peters picks out might be important, but the research they do doesn't in any way prove that.
There was a follow-up piece of research done some years later (not by the authors) in a paper called "excellence revisited", which argued that excellence was basically a temporary phenomenon, and that even these companies reverted to the mean. This looked at the "excellent companies" subsequent performance and found that on average, they had deteriorated significantly in all measures of performance. They then picked a sample of "non-excellent companies" using the same ranking criteria as the original book did at the time that the original research was done. Sure enough, these on average improved significantly in performance.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a'Rockwell' painting of a business culture of yesteryear?, June 1 2000
By 
karl b. (Fraser Valley, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
How are great companies managed? What leads to their growth and sustained dominance of the marketplace? Peters and Waterman asked this question in 1982 and came up with answers which should have provided a scientific verification to the most idealistic prophets of capitalism. The answers were simple and constructive. Generally,
*Define yourself and your structure, then stick to the knitting.
*Nurture and reward employee excellence. Provide a climate of security and creativity in which employees developed loyalty and understanding of corporate values, and were in turn developed to their full potential.
*Establish long term customer relationships based on trust, high quality and value in products and service.
*Re-invest in and re-invent your company continuously within a defined sense of mission and social purpose.
Peters's and Waterman's project was to find what made the most successful companies of their time tick. In 1982 the hi-teck revolution, notably in personal computing, had just barely moved out of Steve Job's garage. A longstanding equilibrium between business prerogative and government intervention in issues of social equity and regulation of commerce, trade, workplace and markets had been in place since the Second World War. But this was under increasing pressure from well organized and financed corporate lobbies. Unsurprisingly at the end of this era of steady growth and popularly shared wealth the authors came up with a very positive take on corporate excellence and resultant success. Certainly some of these ideals are still ascendent in the most dynamic of business companies, the entrepreneurial sector. The case with bricks and mortar 'old' economic productive sector has been somewhat different.
It is interesting to note that Peters wrote a book a few years later called 'Thriving on Chaos' in which he tried to come to grips with a commercial culture which was increasingly unpredictable and exploitive. One which seemed to promote short term pragmatism with respect to all except the shareholders. A group whose dictates were expressed in increasingly interrelated organizations. Their relationship with the corporation's social 'stakeholders' was anonymous, amoral and based solely on immediate performance. They were interested in short term and bloated returns, uninterested in traditions, enculturated values, long term stability or the wider community. Capital being far more fluid than industrial infrastructure, penalties were placed on industry which was not willing to chart the basest course of exploitation of employees, currencies, customers, nations. This rewarded the investor with a high voltage, quick return, who then moved on. Jobs started fleeing to the most desperate labour markets offshore. Free market ideology skewed the playing field, took the referee away, giving the edge to those who played rough and dirty. Currencies were now held hostage to an unsupervised supranational casinos at the behest of a corporate organism interested only in its own aggrandizement at the expense of the weak. MBA's provided a stilted logic to rationalize it all.
Has spectre of ungoverned free markets robbed corporations of the options of operating like good corporate citizens? Has it forced them to match and out maneuver the most cunning and manipulative of their competitors? Is capital's old predatory ways reasserting itself, as Marx always said it would? It seems the builders who saw social responsibility as the greatest saving grace of capitalism are being methodically erased by a brutal new species in a regenerate jungle. This book may indeed be a retrospective of a business culture that seems to be dying, and who knows what society will be in the ethos that is replacing it.
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In Search Of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies
In Search Of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies by Thomas Peters (Paperback - Feb. 19 2004)
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