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In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies Kindle Edition

by Tom Peters (Author), Robert H. Waterman (Author) Format: Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars

475 ratings


It is the "Greatest Business Book of All Time" (Bloomsbury UK), In Search of Excellence has been an essential in the business schools, boardrooms as well as the bedside table.

Based on an analysis of 43 of America's top-performing firms from a wide range of industries, In Search of Excellence exposes eight key management principles -- empowering, people-focused and profit-maximizing strategies which made these companies successful.

It is part of to the HarperBusiness Essentials series, this amazing bestseller includes a brand new Author's Note and brings these fundamental principles back in a simple and practical manner that is suitable for today's business reader.

Richard Boggs

5.0 out of 5 stars

Still holds up

Reviewed in the United States on January 31, 2021

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Though the case studies are outdated, the core competencies of this book are still very strong. The authors acknowledge this in the book's Author's Note added in 2003. I will be recommending this book to the rest of my company's senior leadership as a succinct guide to overcoming specific challenges we are having as our business grows and we develop new protocols and organizational structures. Throughout the book, it is mentioned that the structure presented is in contrast to military-style thinking, but I feel that too may be outdated as more contemporary books from former Secretaries of Defence Gates and Mattis, as well as other military-turned-business advisors expound heavily upon many of the basic principles laid out in this book.


I also observe that some of the ideas discussed in the book have been dissected and bastardized by contemporary companies, especially in the marketing agency and tech fields. Luxuries and motivators, incentive programs for their staff, now turned necessities to the business such as free snacks, company happy hours, constant recognition and participant ribbons, among other things. It is interesting to read back to where these concepts actually started and why - turns out it was Silicon Valley after all.


I got out of this book exactly what I was hoping to. However, it was not a quick read because it left my mind racing about how we can streamline the business, improve communication, deepen our corporate culture, and the like. Every few paragraphs I would have to stop reading to take a note or allow an idea to mature before moving to the next part of the book. I hope it does the same for you.

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Brian Epperson

5.0 out of 5 stars

A book of mentoring for those who don't have the types of mentors to help them achieve their greatest potential. If one happens

Reviewed in the United States on August 12, 2016

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Wish I'd read this in high school. A book of mentoring for those who don't have the types of mentors to help them achieve their greatest potential. If one happens to have Jack Welch or Warren Buffet, Zig Ziglar, Oz Guiness or Bill Gates as a mentor, then you probably don't need this book. If not, you probably should get it. I mean, seriously, a $10 investment for hundreds of years of billion-dollar life coaching!

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Benjamin Rossen

5.0 out of 5 stars

Timeless Classic

Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2005

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Like many groundbreaking works, this one must be seen as important when it was written for what it said then, and important now for what it has led to. Inspired, without doubt, by the monumental Drucker study of IBM, it took case analysis a step further. Its seminal ideas are found in many contemporary studies and schools or management thinking which have taken these principles yet further.


That doesn't mean it should no longer be read. But, after reading it, and to get the most from reading it, other contemporary works should be included in your reading list. For example, Jim Collins' "Built to Last" and "Good to Great", and John Roberts' "The Modern Firm" take Peters and Watermans' original insights many steps further. "In Search of Excellence" however, is unlikely to lose its status as a classic, and the broad strokes of its conclusions will continue to be recognized as timeless principles.

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Buyer XYZ

5.0 out of 5 stars

helpful, and thought provoking, assessment of winning companies and management strategies

Reviewed in the United States on October 29, 2019

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Well written and researched. Provides very helpful, and thought provoking, assessment of winning companies and management strategies

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Terra Nova

5.0 out of 5 stars

Classic

Reviewed in the United States on March 9, 2018

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Timeless book on creating a great business.

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Jose S

5.0 out of 5 stars

This is a really well written book.

Reviewed in the United States on August 18, 2021

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I really liked this book, a ton of illustrating examples and a lot of magnificent ideas to help the reader deal with management situations.

Highly recommend.

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John E. Ziegler

5.0 out of 5 stars

BOOK

Reviewed in the United States on January 10, 2020

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Excellent. Was also endorsed by Bill Walsh

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Rpf

5.0 out of 5 stars

It remains a classic

Reviewed in the United States on April 13, 2019

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I gave this book to a mentee in the business school to make a point that a focus on the customer remains a primary focus in companies that do well. Peters and Waterman stressed this point four decades ago, and it still rings true.

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Sarah Sandoval

5.0 out of 5 stars

Five Stars

Reviewed in the United States on November 30, 2018

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Came exactly as described, thank you!

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Francisco J. Reyes Silva

5.0 out of 5 stars

Amazing book

Reviewed in the United States on December 15, 2019

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Amazing book


K. O. Singer

5.0 out of 5 stars

... I felt (and still do) that this was the best book on management that I have ever read

Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2014

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When I first read this book back in the 80's I felt (and still do) that this was the best book on management that I have ever read. However, I would love to read a sequel with a good analysis on what happened to those great companies and managers who have lost so much of there luster since then.

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Stan R. Simms

5.0 out of 5 stars

Nice add to the business library.

Reviewed in the United States on March 11, 2016

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Great read. I was surprised by some of the content and wondered if the author was the first to introduce some of the terminology.

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Verona Lucas - V.E.Lucas

5.0 out of 5 stars

This book is a major reference book, not just a 'good read'

Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2012

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This book is not just a 'good read' it is the sort of book that you take notes and pass on the information to others in business. I had a hard copy but must have been lent and never returned. Having it on Kindle makes the access to it permanent and reliable. We cherish this book. We were first introduced to this book by word of mouth, that is how excellent it is.

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T.L.S.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Awesome Read

Reviewed in the United States on April 5, 2019

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Encouraging information if you're seeking to better yourself

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Cheryl57

5.0 out of 5 stars

Growing Your Business from the Inside Out

Reviewed in the United States on May 10, 2013

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It all started here. Tom Peters teaches corporations about continuous quality improvement. Learn from the best. You can grow your business by lean operation. Stream the processes to get your product out there and get your billing done right the first time. Teach your employees to work smarter instead of harder.

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Mcavalli27

5.0 out of 5 stars

Five Stars

Reviewed in the United States on April 17, 2018

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good read.

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Book Reader

5.0 out of 5 stars

Standing the test of time

Reviewed in the United States on May 18, 2010

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"In Search of Excellence" was written nearly 30 years ago (in 1982) and appears to have stood the test of time. One of the most interesting chapters speaks of the development of management theory from the 1930s all the way through the 1970s. The well written summary of evolution of corporate strategy is extremely helpful to those who wish to broaden their knowledge, without reading thousands of pages of classical management theories.


The authors selected eight key factors that they reasoned to be drivers of success. They then identified a number of companies that they considered to be "excellent" performers, and used examples of their respective organizational structures to highlight the eight factors. The key factors include:


* Bias for Action: getting things done, open communication between employees and the management, experimentation;

* Close to the Customer: obsession with reliability, service, and quality to gain and retain customers;

* Autonomy of Entrepreneurship: in-house competition, encourage creativity, ability to tolerate failure;

* Productivity through People: treating employees with respect, make them feel important, management by wandering around the office and communicating;

* Hands-on, Value Driven: emphasizing the importance of corporate history and tradition using stories and myths, rather than bureaucratic policies;

* Stick to the Knitting: understanding what the company's primary business is, and not diversify into ventures where experience is not currently present;

* Simple Form, Lean Staff: avoiding complex management structures, increasing the ability to implement changes to the processes quickly and easily in accordance with the dynamic environment;

* Simultaneous Loose-tight Properties: balance of central direction and individual autonomy, combination of control and innovative entrepreneurship.


Many ideas developed by Peters and Waterman do appear to have a universal truth quality to them. Most successful companies today do in fact possess the aforementioned characteristics.

Interestingly, nearly two-thirds of all "excellent" companies discussed in the book, have gone bankrupt or were acquired by other firms. It appears that excellence cannot be sustainable over a long-term period, and eventually meritocracy sets in. This issue was not discussed by the authors, but one could explain it by attributing it to changes in management, which in turn led to the disappearance of the key factors.


For example, consider the recent competition faced by General Motors. With increasing prices on non-renewable resources and rising environmental awareness, American consumers began demanding more fuel efficient automobiles. Japanese competitors, such as Toyota and Honda, were able seize this marketing opportunity by delivering vehicles that outperformed those of GM. GM was too late with becoming "close to the consumer," leading to a massive loss in a market share, in turn leading to an overall fall in sales.


Another example can be provided by a once excellent mass-market electronics retailer, Circuit City. The company was praised for its level of superior service. The company spent significant amount of time on staff development, which differentiated it from other retailers. The change in management in the early 2000s also brought cost cutting measures which replaced well-trained service employees with minimum wage personnel. Forgetting its history and unique selling proposition drove consumers away from Circuit City, ultimately leading to bankruptcy of the organization in late 2008.


Some could mistakenly conclude from this that excellence is simply a temporary state, and cannot be sustained over a long-term period. Looking at the decline of some of the once great companies clearly shows which one of the eight factors had gone awry, and if addressed in time could have kept the company at its excellent condition. The authors of the book could not have perceived the fall of some of the great companies mentioned in the book, yet they did clearly say that excellent companies must not lose sight of the key factors, as doing so will lead to disappearance of overall excellence and could even escalate to complete failure, as it has been shown in the examples above.

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Brian F. Randall

5.0 out of 5 stars

1 of the best books on Corporate Management

Reviewed in the United States on October 13, 2015

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1 of the best books on Corporate Management, which continues to give basic lessons, and even more compelling in global companies and markets.

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Zak

5.0 out of 5 stars

Excellent Read

Reviewed in the United States on May 12, 2015

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I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. This book was recommended to me by one of my professors at ETSU. It has great perspective and insight into finding and creating excellence within the work place.

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Juan Gonzalez

5.0 out of 5 stars

Quite insightful and all base on good research

Reviewed in the United States on April 7, 2018

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A must read. The research done for this book makes it quite practical. The entrepreneurship chapter is quite valuable and easy to implement.


David and Suzanne McClendon

5.0 out of 5 stars

A Business Classic

Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2011

Way back in the 1980s few people in business gave much thought to what makes an excellent business. Peters and Waterman conducted research on companies they identified as excellent. What they found were some common threads among the truly excellent companies.


Being counted as an excellent company today is no guarantee that the company will be excellent in the future. The bar of excellence is constantly being raised and, in today's economy, lowered.


If you are a business student, this is among the books you should read. Also, if you are looking for business research, with a little business history thrown in, you should read Built To Last: Successful Habits Of Visionary Companies by James C. Collins and Jerry Porras and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by Jim Collins.


In Search of Excellence explains how Peters and Waterman conducted their research and then what they found. They give us some insight into the excellent companies and what makes them tick.


The book is a business classic. If you were in management back in the 1980s, you were probably compelled to read this book. The Fast Track Management program I was in made this required reading.

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B.Sudhakar Shenoy

5.0 out of 5 stars

The search continues

Reviewed in the United States on March 18, 2004

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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Donald Mitchell

HALL OF FAME

5.0 out of 5 stars

Use Positive Emotions for Positive Results

Reviewed in the United States on April 20, 2000

Life (and business) are a lot more fun if we are excited by and committed to what we are doing. This book reawakens our sense that organizations can be exciting and meaningful places to be, filled with the potential for great results and enormous beneficial impact.

We all have been touched by an outstanding leader and inspired to do more. Most of us would have a hard time spelling out what those leaders do. This book is a very practical guide to being a good example and a source of daily inspiration.

You can read other books to figure out what to inspire people to do specifically and so forth, but this one is unique. I suggest Peter Drucker's MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY as a good place to begin.

You may find that you do not "get" a particular recommendation. To deepen your understanding, I recommend that you read A PASSION FOR EXCELLENCE in those areas where you are unmoved or unclear. It is filled with examples on the same points as IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE.

I also like the title. Finding excellence is a never-ending task for us all.

If you want to read a terrific book on how successful companies differ from their less successful competitors, be sure to read BUILT TO LAST. It is also a great companion for IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE.

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Wally Bock

5.0 out of 5 stars

Still excellent after all these years

Reviewed in the United States on May 3, 2007

It's been twenty-five years since In Search of Excellence first appeared in the book stores. When it appeared it was one of the very first books to make the general best seller list.


Over the last twenty-five years articles of all sorts have risen up to tell us that the research wasn't really valid or that the companies studied didn't outperform everyone else for the next quarter century. Those articles miss the point.


The important things about In Search of Excellence have nothing to do with whether the companies studied are doing well today or whether it was flawed as a piece of research. The book did not pretend to be a scientific study and it did not pretend it was picking companies for the ages.


The context is important. Japanese management, Japanese companies, and Japanese methods were ascendant. Books and articles called for American companies to act more Japanese, usually without any discussion of cultural differences. There was even talk that Japan would take over the economic world, leaving America in the dust.


In Search of Excellence was a look by two savvy consultants from the world's most revered consulting firm at what American companies were doing right. Another excellent book, The Art of Japanese Management had carried a similar message about a year before, but the stars aligned for In Search of Excellence and it became a best seller.


In Search of Excellence did what it set out to do. It showed that there were American companies doing good things and describing what those things were.


In Search of Excellence also did something groundbreaking and important. It has become Tom Peters' enduring legacy (since Bob Waterman went on to other pursuits) to establish the importance of enthusiasm, energy, humanity and spontaneity as counter and counterpoise to the "plan-the-error-out-of-it" school of management.


Tom's legacy, starting with In Search of Excellence, is that he changed the nature of the way we talk about management. That is no small thing.


But there is more than historical interest here. There's a lot you can learn from this book that will help you improve your results. Here's the list of key points, straight from the Table of Contents.


Managing Ambiguity and Paradox


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 Priorities


Twenty-five years on, that's still a list that leads you to chapters stuffed with ideas and with wisdom. Twenty-five years on, this is a book you can learn a lot from.

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therosen

5.0 out of 5 stars

The book that launched a genre

Reviewed in the United States on May 12, 2003

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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Rob Kirk

5.0 out of 5 stars

Fantastic and useful guidelines that truly define great companies

Reviewed in the United States on June 22, 2012

I've read this book a few times over the last 20 years and I've had differing opinions every time I finish. Just read it again and I've moved past my cynical impressions of the examples of companies that have failed by now (2012) that were considered great in the early 1980's. Yes, you can pull out numerous examples of companies that they featured in the book and shake your head in amazement as they failed over the years. I really do think that the fact that they failed should spur some curiosity into which of the 8 principles were violated. Also, if you are involved in a business now, see how your company stacks up in the eight principles and try to make the changes now before it's too late. In summary, the principles and overall information is great, just don't get too caught up in the names of the companies.

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Hiram Gòmez Pardo Venezuela

HALL OF FAME

5.0 out of 5 stars

Transformation and competitiveness in movement!

Reviewed in the United States on October 2, 2005

First at all, this book is not an additional well intentioned book in search of the promised land. It is rather, a kind conversation between a friendly group, where Tom Peters one of the most respectable authorities in the Management, makes an incisive analysis around a set of enrooted paradigms and fixed mental maps. Peters illuminates and allows himself to remark certain half truths we usually assume as holy word. The Managers are manacled by politicians who hinder them to display the take of decision process. On the other hand there is an exacerbated and almost blind faith in what strict and Apollonian planning, that somehow restricts the adequate flexibility in order to react to a competitive environment. There is a hidden fear for bet in favor of the innovation and experimentation. In this sense, this text was one the pioneers in what reengineering and systemic thinking would propose ten years after.


The author makes an impressive tour de force, meandering by the intersection points of several disciplines, which we tend to underrate. This reduced vision does not permit an effective response deriving in lack of competitiveness. Those were very hard years for many industries in expansion; the Japanese avalanche began to show.


This excess of trust permeated the muscular and nervous system of the American Industry and Europe learned the lesson and reacted faster, through a set of legal restrictions and imposing measures to try to reduce the silent invasion.


Of very special interest is the chapter related with the rational model. This mental rigidity plus the multiple bureaucratic gap generated since the very recent rise of prizes in 1973, froze in some way the innovative potentialities in many areas. The politic reaction worked out as a true waterfall in subsequent levels and bridled many brilliants projects.


This book is an admirable synthesis of very important age in the recent past but it maintains a prodigious modernity in despite the fact the elapsed time.


I recommend sincerely its acquiring. Fundamental reading to explore many issues in the complexity and interweaved bounds of beating actuality.

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Michael Gering

5.0 out of 5 stars

The first management blockbuster and still a classic

Reviewed in the United States on May 4, 2000

Few people can lay claim to having created an industry. TomPeters can.

Tom Peters is widely credited with having created themanagement guru industry. Before him it is said that "management thinkers wrote articles in academic journals, gave the occasional seminar, and worked as consultants for a few large corporations". The biggest blockbusters sold under five hundred thousand books.

`In Search of Excellence', co-authored with Bob Waterman, is Tom Peters first book and sold over 6 million copies. Its success surprised their colleagues at McKinsey, who had laughed at the idea that Peters and Waterman would keep the royalties, "should the book sell 50 000 copies".

Two decades later, `In Search of Excellence' is still one of the most readable management books. The eight characteristics of excellent companies, a bias for action, close to the customer, autonomy and entrepreneurship, productivity through people, hands-on values driven, stick to the knitting, simple form and lean staff, simultaneous loose-tight properties are all still relevant and still ignored today. It is written clearly, painting vivid pictures with anecdotes and examples from real companies.

Peters went on to become a megastar in the field of management entertaining, able to charge up to $80 000 for a one day show. The management guru industry is estimated to exceed a billion dollars and management books, including several by Peters himself, now regularly find their way into the best seller list. Peters'later writings have sometimes inspired and sometimes puzzled a new generation of managers.

This book is a classic. Great companies struggle to remain on top over an extended period. But the lessons learned endure. END

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Gabriel Toscana Videgaray

5.0 out of 5 stars

The best management book ever (IMHO)

Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 1998

All other gurus I have ever read have a serious flaw in their presentations: they wrongly believe the world, business and people are rational. That is why the advice of such gurus as Peter Drucker is useless in the real world. The only breath of fresh air among management consultants or gurus is Tom Peters, and he is relevant precisely because he describes the real world: it is more emotional than rational. He mentions that the organization chart is not the company and it is true. The organization chart is a rational model but in the real life of corporations most of what happens has nothing to do with the chain of command. Why has re-engineering failed so blatantly? It is a very good rational model but it doesn't take into consideration that people will fight to death against being re-engineered out of their job. In Search of Excellence is an antidote for all the absurd management fads that come and go.

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Rolf Dobelli

HALL OF FAME

5.0 out of 5 stars

Packed With Knowledge!

Reviewed in the United States on March 26, 2001

"In Search of Excellence" presents the results of a research project that authors Tom Peters and Robert Waterman conducted from 1979 to 1980. They investigated the qualities common to the best-run companies in America. After selecting a sample of 43 companies from six major industries, they examined the firms' practices closely. Although they did this study almost 20 years ago, their results provide a model of eight core principles for excellence that are still true for companies today. These eight principles may seem like common sense, but this research was the first to systematically identify these qualities.

This excellent book is a management classic due to well-done research. Many stories illustrate its key points. We [...] recommend this pivotal book to everyone in business.

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Craig Cecil

5.0 out of 5 stars

The Holy Grail of business books

Reviewed in the United States on October 5, 2005

It's amazing how many people have read this classic Peters and Waterman book. It's even more amazing then how most companies have simply ignored the lessons illustrated within, only to continue on their dismal path of mediocrity. The basic lesson to be learned is that if your company religiously follows the core tenets outlined in the book, then your company will be the leader in your industry, because you will be the only company to do so. So why is this circa 1980's book still relevant? Because the principles apply just as much today, and they apply equally well to business of any nature. If you read this book, absorb all of the lessons, and practice them in your daily activities, then you will have learned the most important lesson in your business life.

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