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In Search of Excellence

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In Search of Excellence

Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

This business classic gives you models for eight paths to excellence, all based on simplicity and common sense. Now, walk the walk.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This book 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 more than 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 identify these qualities systematically. This excellent book is a management classic. Many stories illustrate its key points. getAbstract recommends this pivotal book to everyone in business.


McKinsey’s 7-S Framework

Peters and Waterman began their study at a time when American business was under great competitive pressure due to growing global competition, particularly from the Japanese. They wanted to find out what made excellent American companies so very good, in order to provide information other companies could utilize. They began the project by examining seven key variables. They turned these into a matrix with shared values in the middle, and the other principles around it. This became McKinsey’s 7-S Framework, translated into a series of terms beginning with the letter S:

  • Shared values.
  • Systems.
  • Style.
  • Staff.
  • Skills.
  • Strategy.
  • Structure.

Using this model, they then focused on what comprised “management excellence,” starting with 75 companies, which they eventually winnowed down to 43.

How did Peters and Waterman select their corporate models of excellence? They began with a list of companies that businesspeople, consultants, business journalists and academics in the business field considered to be innovative and excellent in six key industries. Then, they established certain...

About the Authors

Thomas J. Peters is an author, speaker, and professional agitator. His books include The Little BIG Things, Re-Imagine!, Thriving on Chaos, Liberation Management, and The Circle of Innovation Robert H. Waterman is a director of a major consulting company and author of several books, including What America Does Right and The Renewal Factor.

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