Posted by: Adrian Colston | June 14, 2010

In Search of excellence Tom Peters & Robert Waterman

In 1982 Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote book entitled ‘In search of excellence – lessons from America’s Best-run Companies’. This ground breaking book has influenced a generation of management thinking and has championed the way organisations are run around the world today. 

In search of excellence  there are eight themes which are as relevant today as they were in 1982.

  • A bias for action
  • Close to the customer
  • Autonomy and entrepreneurship
  • Productivity through people
  • Hands-on, value driven
  • Stick to the knitting
  • Simple Form, lean staff
  • Simultaneous loose – tight properties 

    1. A bias for action 

    “A bias for action for getting on with it.”“What is striking is the host of practical devices the excellent companies employ, to maintain corporate fleetness of foot and counter the stultification that almost inevitably comes with size.” 

    2. Close to the customer 

    “These companies learn from the people they serve.”“They provide unparalleled quality, service and reliability – things that work and last.”“Many of the innovative companies got their best product ideas from customers. That comes from listening intently and regularly.”

    3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship 

    “The innovative companies foster many leaders and many innovators throughout the organisation.”“They don’t try to hold everyone on so a short rein that they can’t be creative.”“They encourage practical risk taking and good tries.”“They follow Fletcher Byrom’s ninth commandment: Make sure you generate a reasonable number of mistakes.”

    4. Productivity through people 

    “The excellent companies treat the rank and file as the root source of quality and productivity gain.”“At IBM the most important belief is: our respect for the individual.”“At Texas Instruments every worker is seen as a source of ideas, not just acting as a pair of hands.”

    5. Hands-on, value driven 

    “The basic philosophy of an organisation has far more to do with its achievements than do technological or economic resources, organisational structure, innovation and timing.”“Good Managers are legendary for walking plant floors to assess them on the factors the company holds dear.”

    6. Stick to the knitting 

    “Never acquire a business you don’t know how to run”“While there are a few exceptions, the odds for excellent performance seem to strongly favour those companies that stay reasonably close to businesses they know.”

    7. Simple Form, lean staff 

    “The underlying structural forms and systems in the excellent companies are elegantly simple. Top level staffs are lean; it is not uncommon to find a corporate staff of fewer than 100 people running multi-billion dollar enterprises.”

    8. Simultaneous loose – tight properties 

    “The excellent companies are both centralised and decentralised. For the most part, they have pushed autonomy down to the shop floor or product development team.”“On the other hand they are fanatic centralists around the few core values they hold dear.”



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