In Search for Excellence

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In Search of Excellence|
A review of the elements and the book.|
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8/30/2010|
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Thomas Friedman in his book “The World is Flat” outlines how the entire world is shrinking and become a close net ball replete with information highways transferring data, ideas and meaningful business information at a pace that was never imagined before. In the same way the concept of “speed” is conceptually driven in the mind of business leaders by Bill Gates in his famous book. Scores of management books today are being churned out virtually every day and it’s very difficult to judge how impactful they might be for the time they represent. What works for today has often been seen to be redundant the next time. In Search of Excellence, a revolutionary book by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, published in 1982, changed the way business looked at itself for that decade and also became the reference point of debates, business ideas and strategies even till date. Even though critics have labeled the book as being “deficient in Theories” and lacking is strong models that come out of theories, it nevertheless has impacted business worldwide to change the way they function. The Book

The Book was fallout of a project conducted by McKinsey in the year 1972. There were two projects first and major one, the Business Strategy Project, was allocated to top consultants at McKinsey's New York corporate HQ and was given star billing and later was branded as a total failure. The second 'weak-sister' project concerned Organization - structure and people. The Organization project was seen as less important, and was allocated to Peters and Waterman at San Francisco. Peter went berserk on this project and travelled the entire globe talking to CEO’s, business entrepreneurs, Consultants on business and Teams with no aim to chart out a “business model “ or a plan. What culminated after this was a mammoth 700 page presentation which was later pruned down to produce the eight themes. The platform for the book was however adopted from McKinsey 7-S Model Elements as shown below:-

The Eight Themes
1. A Bias for Action:
The name of the title clearly gives an indication that the ultimate goal of an organization is about the results. The effort is important but unless results are seen, the effort is rendered futile. The methodology any organization can opt for is to enable a platform of seamless information exchange. This will ensure that communication permeates the very fabric of an organizational setup and this can be achieved only if the communication line and processes are flexible and open. The main reason being that such a setup of built in flexibility ensures quick transmission, interpretation, analysis of information and break up of those information into action points. The basis of such a platform is simple. The almost trivial experiment task force, small groups, temporary structure etc all lead to action orientation. Management needs to get out of the office and out and about to communicate with the people of the organization. E.g. of such can be the introduction of the IBM’s System 360 or a 3 day ad hoc task force at Digital. These companies despite their vast size have been able to keep communication simple and have not been transfixed with organizational charts and job descriptions. The basic aim as can be put in words is to ensure experimentation. Companies like Betchel, TI, Digital, Fluor, Emerson, IBM, Dana, Boeing have developed such systems that enables even the most senior leadership employees communicate with people bypassing the obstacle posed by time.

2. Close to the Customer:
The main objective of every company is customer focus however not every company can follow it because as Peters and Waterman put it, that despite of all the lip service that is given to market orientation in today’s world, the customer is either ignored or considered as a bloody nuisance. Excellent companies get up close and...
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