Summary of Scaling Up Excellence

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Scaling Up Excellence book summary

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Stanford professors Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao team up to address and help solve the difficulties of scaling up. Almost every business has departments or even random pockets of employees who excel. Problems arise when leaders try to spread that excellence to scale throughout a company or in an expansion. Most organizations – regardless of size or specialization – face similar difficulties in spreading best practices or scaling excellence as they grow. The authors use numerous engaging case studies, cite myriad academic papers and offer anecdotal evidence to codify five rules of effective scaling. Surprisingly, given the clean, concise structure of Sutton’s best-selling The No Asshole Rule, here he and Rao don’t always distinguish their revelatory ideas from commonplace notions, and they repeat several points. Even so, this is an accessible, valuable work. getAbstract recommends their perceptive, practical guide to leaders coping with the challenges of scaling.

About the Authors

Professor Robert I. Sutton teaches management science and engineering at Stanford University, where professor Huggy Rao teaches organizational behavior in the Graduate School of Business.


“Catholic” or “Buddhist”

Whether your company is a start-up trying to scale or an established firm trying to spread pockets of excellence across your organization, it must strike a balance between duplicating what works – the “Catholic process” – and adapting to new circumstances, the “Buddhist process.”

Scaling excellence is rarely about simple replication. Mimicking a successful process from one unit in your organization in another unit will not change your corporate culture. A clone of a model that works in one culture won’t necessarily work in another. When Home Depot entered China in 2006, it tried to insert its “do it yourself” values into a “hire-someone-to-do-it” culture – and failed completely. By contrast, Yum restaurants succeeded in China by adapting its menus and taking a more flexible, Buddhist-style approach to growth. Few organizations can succeed by turning their backs on what worked in the past. Most success stories feature a balance between adhering to proven processes, standards and ways of doing things, and adapting, where necessary, to new or local conditions as the organization scales.


To find the right balance, don’t accept...

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