Tom Peters and Bob Waterman published ‘In Search of Excellence’ in 1982 which provides practical tips on what a company needs to do in order to survive in today’s competitive market. Despite the timing of when it was first published, the basic principles are still as relevant today and widely practiced in the business world.

Based on a study of 43 of America’s top companies from diverse sections of the business world, it describes eight basic principles of management which collectively provide the foundations of the author’s teaching.

Business leaders can discover what the best companies are doing, how to achieve and maintain excellence. Through the study of top companies of the day, the book provides advice on how the best companies were good at executing basic business tasks. One of those principles advocated a flatter management level, that an effective structure should contain no more than seven tiers between the lowest tier and the leader of the organisation, regardless of the organisational size.

Peters and Waterman are honest about the means to achieving success, namely that the best product being the thinking within the company. This book gives practical thinking tools and encourages creative thinking by utilising the ‘action stimulating principle’. This basic principle seeks to stimulate an environment that strives for excellence and promotes action.

The authors advocate that leaders should encourage an eagerness to experiment; they refer to this aspect as significant because it encourages action by promoting attributes such as listening to the customer. More importantly they insist that listening to those we serve determines where changes need to take place and how often, this means considering the right people and seeking their ideas, internally and externally. This can be achieved by encouraging autonomy and innovation throughout the business, by ensuring that the leaders support individuals in their quest to constantly improve their competencies and productivity, by asking ‘do we want to do better?’.

The authors refer to a value driven business, asking what is the businesses philosophy, values and objectives and how is that communicated to the people? Are the decisions being made as a direct consequence of the values of the organisation? Do the leaders consistently communicate what is important and strive to make it an exciting environment? The book suggests that the best companies adapt to change positively, remaining flexible, prepared to re-organise and change its workforce in search of excellence.

Peters and Waterman suggest excellence can be achieved by adopting people-oriented and profit maximising practices. My advice is to consider the real life accounts of how businesses adopted these principles and see the results they achieved, any business leader is likely to take something positive from this book.

The book can be purchased here