In Search of Excellence: review
In Search of Excellence is a book dealing with many different
principles of economics and what makes big business’ excellent. The
first idea that Peters discusses is his chart of the McKinsey 7-S
Framework. The graph is very simple but the ideas are fairly complex. In
their research, they found that their philosophies were too hard to
explain and easily forgettable. They made this Framework to deal with
strategy, structure, style, systems, staff (people), skills, and shared
values (culture). This has 7 S’s (easy to remember) and a graphical
representation to visualize. This shows the businessman that the
intractable, irrational, intuitive, and informal organization can be
managed. For example, anyone assuming that a new manager of a Taco Bell
will perform exactly as the old manager did is ridiculous. The
organization of workers must adjust and adapt to the new manager’s way
Another more main topic of the novel is the Eight Basic Principles.
Their research had shown that the excellent companies had been based on
the basics. The companies had to try to keep things simple. Sometimes,
to a big business, it might seem logical that business should be run
more complex the larger it is. From their research, this is usually not
true. The first pricnciple is a bias for action. This is basically
saying “Stop talking and do something about it.” When Taco Bell has a
rush of customers and their supplies for making food are low, they
(usually) don’t say “You know what, I have no more cheese” or “Could
someone get me some more cheese?” They take action and get the cheese,
make it if necessary, and get the problem solved as quickly as possible.
The second Principle they deal with is to be close to the customer.
This means good service and listening to what the customer has to say.
If the producer, Taco Bell, is not in touch with what the customer wants
to eat, then the business will most likely fail. Although it also refers
to customer satisfaction; quality food made right and curteous service:
“Have a nice day and enjoy your meal!”
The third principle is autonomy and entrepreneurship. This is the
innovation principle. 3M is known for innovation and they welcome the
changing and rearranging of old and new products. For example, my dad
took 3M’s basic arthroscopy pump and redesigned it into an in flow-out
flow cannula. This innovation on his part temporarilly set 3M back on
its feet in that product line.
The fourth basic principle is productivity through people. This deals
with the indivdual as the best means for efficiency improvement rather
than capital investment. If Taco Bell could put everyone in the area of
work they most enjoyed (drive-thru, washer,…) then they could produce
more food and maximize their utiles.
The fifth basic principle is hands on, value driven. This is the
standard setting and enforcing values in a company. This is keeping the
“head honcho” in touch with the assembly line worker and projecting the
company’s original ideas, instead of an image of some suited businessman
lurking in a big, dark office.
The sixth and often obvious principle is to stick to the knitting. The
basically says that if a company is in the food business, it should not
branch off into the wood industry unless they have no where else to
expand in the industry they are already in.
The seventh basic principle is a simple form, lean staff. This means
leaving few people up top to manage a company and keep the form of
The eighth and final basic principle is simultaneous loose-tight
properties. This is another value-based principle. This could be
described as the ability for a worker of Taco Bell to do his/her job in
his/her own way as they incorporate the company’s values and
philosophies into their work. These values demonstrate that they don’t
just work because they work, but rather because they just make sense.
Peters does a great job of explaining and giving examples of these eight
principles and shows us that we would be foolish to ignore these
principles. Also, we could learn a new skill from the 7 S-Framework,
which is what growth is really about: the ability to learn and teach.