wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Robert (Bob) WatermanRobert Waterman


American management expert (pictured right) who shot to worldwide fame as co-author of In Search of Excellence (see below).


Key books


In Search of Excellence (1982), written with Thomas Peters (pictured right below)

 (see for more detail In Search of Excellence in the Business Books section)Robert Waterman


Excellent companies have eight characteristics:


1. Hands-on value driven

Following customer-driven values and beliefs.


2. Close to the customer

An obsession with excellent service, quality and reliability.


3. A bias for action

- a ‘can do’ mentality heavily dependent on informal contacts.


4. Autonomy and entrepreneurship

The encouragement of innovation through:

  • small autonomous teams and business units.
  • informality and experimentation.
  • product champions who fanatically support a new product.


5. Productivity through people

Maximizing people’s potential through:

  • inspirational leadership.
  • unity of purpose.
  • wise recruitment.
  • involvement in decision making.
  • information.
  • rewards for performance.
  • humanity (compassion mixed with toughness).
  • self-motivation.
  • fun at work.


6. Sticking to the knitting

Sticking “reasonably close” to the business(es) you know best.


7. Simple form, lean staff

Simple organization structure minimizing layers of management and staff at head office.


8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties 

A combination of:

  • central control over the things that matter (e.g. values, quality and customer service).
  • autonomy given to divisions, teams and individual employees.


Peters and Waterman wrote the book as employees of the American management consultants, McKinsey, and used its 7-S Framework to analyse an organization’s success:

  • strategy.
  • structure.
  • style (of leadership).
  • staff.
  • skills.
  • systems (how things are done).
  • shared values (corporate culture).


Key quotes on customers

Customers reign supreme.


Key quotes on business success

The excellent companies were, above all, brilliant at the basics.

They give people pride in what they do. They make it possible to love the product (talking about excellent companies).


Key quotes on people management

Treat people as adults. Treat them as partners; treat them with dignity; treat them with respect.



The Renewal Factor (1987)


The best organizations continually renew themselves by:


1. Motivating and empowering their employees - through:

  • knowledge, and teamwork.
  • inspirational values and attitudes.
  • communication and trust.
  • employee involvement in decision making.


2. Change

Changing to adapt to changes in customer needs, but there must also be “a constant interplay between stability and change”.


3. Informed opportunism

Exploiting market opportunities through:

  • learning, knowledge and creativity.
  • “a voracious hunger for facts”.


Key quotes on change and business success

No organization can strive for excellence, or even attempt to improve, without the ability to renew.

The only true source of renewal in a company is the individual.



The Frontiers of Excellence (1994) - What America Does Right (in America)


The best companies satisfy their employees and customers better than their competitors do through:


1. Continuous innovation 

(from self-managing small business units and teams).


2. Quality improvements


3. Visionary, ethical and visible leadership

 Put people first and see profits pile up.


4. Low costs and long-term planning


5. Lifelong learning and challenging aims

  • giving people something to believe in. 
  • being committed to the organization's values in its corporate culture.


6. Motivating and empowering employees


Empowerment is particularly important and requires satisfying an employee’s needs via:

  • rewards for performance and recognition.
  • communication and trust.
  • inspirational purpose.
  • control over work ( “directed autonomy”).
  • everyone (not just managers) becoming a leader.


Happy employees mean happy customers and higher profits.


Key quote on leadership

Today’s leaders understand that you have to give up control to get results


Key quote on human resource management

 Exciting results attract top people... and top people produce exciting results.


Key quote on motivation

People... need to feel that their organization stands for something important.


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