The Search for Excellence Continues

Search ExcelenceIn 1977 the consulting company McKinsey assigned a project to Tom Peters and Robert Waterman.  The project was about organizations, their structures and people.  Out of that project the book, In Search of Excellence was published in 1982.  It is the most successful business book ever!

Peters and Waterman visited many companies, good and bad (as compared to criteria they had created).  Then they documented the themes that seemed to bind the good companies together.  I read a lot and the funny thing is all of today’s business books promote the rules of running a business that these two men identified over 30 years ago.

As a business owner, you are always looking for that key to make your company more successful.  Unfortunately, there is no one perfect answer that will launch your company into the stratosphere.  But the good news is there are time tested behaviors – as described in this book – that will ignite that rocket ship of yours.

Here are the eight themes Peters and Waterman found:

  1. A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
  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.


You can see the language is a little outdated.  Words jumping out at us from the eighties.  But the messages are there, strong and clear.  There is a brilliance in the simplicity of these eight statements.  And they were associated with the best, most successful companies.

Here is my challenge to you.  Sit down with a note pad and pencil and rate yourself and your company on each of these 8 criteria.  First give yourself an honest 1-10 score.  Then write one paragraph on what you are going to do in the next 90 days that will help your company become more aligned with these 8 ideas.


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