In Search of Excellence, Thoughts On, 25-year Perspective

[TP note: What follows, in shorthand-outline form was written by me to prep for an interview on a new book about the "halo effect"—which, as so many since 1982, takes aim at In Search of Excellence—which, of course, is immensely flattering 25 years later, when the book and I, by all rights, ought to be on the shelf gathering dust. Why did I take it so seriously? Simple, because it's interesting to think about "all this."]

*Book was impetus for:

    Excellence "Industry"
    Anti-Excellence "Industry"
    Multi-billion $$ "Management guru" INDUSTRY

*Don't take yourself too seriously!!!!! (Read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Fooled By Randomness—my bible.)
*TP to audiences: "If you followed In Search to a T you were obviously an idiot and deserved your sorry fate; it's simply meant to be 'helpful,' no more and no less. It's entirely up to you and your judgment as to how far to go, if anywhere." (Any idea/s taken to its/their extreme will get you in trouble—e.g., religious ones.)
*TP: "'Halo effect?' I WISH IT WERE TRUE!" (I.e, that "everyday" service industries treated their employees like Wegmans does.)
*Conjectures lead to refutations. (Duh.) (Popper, philosopher of science, Conjectures and Refutations) (Success stories vs failure stories; Freud/broken personalities vs. Maslow/healthy personalities)

*FYI, or, rather, for what it's worth, perhaps not much):

    Excellence Index: 1982-2002/
    [20th anniversary of Search]

    DJIA: $10,000 yields $85,500
    EI: $10,000 yields $140,050

    (Forbes/Excellence Index/Basket of 32 publicly traded stocks from In Search of Excellence)

    (Ever so many management book authors feel it's necessary to begin with "Most of the companies in In Search of Excellence failed." This is hardly "proof" that such an assertion is wrong, just "a little counter-evidence.")

* The "stuff" can't hurt (e.g., women, design, customers, people, MBWA, X-functional co-operation, soft is hard [numbers "soft," people-customer-execution orientation/obsession "hard"], EXCELLENCE per se as aspiration, action beats talk, screw-ups normal & necessary, flowers, "thank you," Enthusiasm, hire enthusiasts) "Tom, it [YPO seminar in '83] was a blinding flash of the obvious"—Manny Garcia, Burger King's #1 franchisee at the time)
(McKinsey "7-S model" [strategy, structure, staff, etc.] 8 "basics" of Search)

*Not RULES, but a little motivation/some "stuff" to get you (seminar attendee) going
*TP, 2007: "My principal goal is to remind you of stuff you already know, but which often gets lost in the course of taxing everyday affairs."

*CONTEXT! CONTEXT! CONTEXT! (1982's "Strategy obsession" vs our emphasis on Execution-"Organization"-"Organizational effectiveness")

*Didn't purport to be "Hard research." (Instead, "exploratory research"; i.e., taking a first look at an interesting notion)

* * * * *


Comment @ 2, 2007: "As an attendee of the CO-OP Financial Services Conference, I had the opportunity to see Tom's presentation on 6/1/07. For me, the man and the message were both truly inspiring. Tom helped remind me of why I decided to accept the CEO position at my credit union nearly seven years ago. His presentation also served as a much needed slap in the face by showing me how much I have unintentionally strayed from the original vision I was given. I have allowed the influences of generally well intended external forces to move me, and therefore my credit union, off track. As a result, we have become entirely too wrapped up with trying to be 'one of the big guys,' way too risk averse, afraid to fail and slow to act as a result of 'paralysis by analysis.' It's time to change all of that! Thanks very much and God bless!" (Posted by Wally Murray at June 3, 2007, 9:16 AM)

NOT MEANT TO IMPLY A "TYPICAL COMMENT," SIMPLY TO SUGGEST WHAT "THEY" CAN GET OUT OF "IT." (Will he follow up? God alone knows. And, sorry, not my problem—I live to stir things up; hey, one can only do so much, especially at 64 [64 = me, Harrison Ford, Paul McCartney—a little left in us old boys?])

[CM note: The article we link above is an excerpt from Knowledge@Wharton.]