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on March 8, 2004
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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on March 3, 2004
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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on June 1, 2000
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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on December 13, 2001
Development of business practices designed to enhance performance is emphasized. Topics discussed include employee motivational tools, morale boosting, customer satisfaction, and management techniques. Lengthy business discussions are used as examples sporadically throughout the book which may result in the reader's interest fading. In summary, the book encourages business success through the incorporation of basic business practices into daily operations. "1001 Ways to Reward Employees", "Six Sigma", or books authored by John Maxwell may be of interest to the reader.
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on October 22, 1997
I read this book as an assignment for business management class, but I ended up finishing it for myself! Hello Mr. Higgins!
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