Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Search of Excellence ... revisited

On the Nov 1st, 1982, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman published "In Search of Excellence". This book has become a cornerstone of management reading.

However, it's based upon case studies of 62 companies and identifying those that are excellent according to a particular framework. It doesn't in my view explain the underlying processes of change and hence I'd argue that it's flawed, fundamentally.

The problem with the work, which is common to many management literature, is that it's based fundamentally on case studies with no underlying model of explanation, no cause, no correlation and no predictive tests. The worst examples of this are those books which run on an assumption that big companies know what they're doing and hence case studies on big companies are some guide to how you should operate. That's fairly delusional given any cursory examination of corporate history.

Despite this, the book has some good themes and I thought it would be interesting to view where these companies have got to in the last 30 yrs, a sort of where are they now?

I'll publish the list on the 1st Nov but I thought I'd start with a draft list, needs lots of checking, confirmation etc. I'll update this post over the months, at the moment it's rough notes.

If someone would like to do an actual study of the "In Search of Excellence 62", set-up a wiki etc - then I'd love to hear about this.

It would probably make a good book and fascinating reading. I'd suggest you publish it on the 1st Nov (hint, hint) and I'd certainly buy it at a reasonable price.

Allen-BradleyPrivateStill in operation as a brand-name for a line of Factory Automation Equipment. Acquired by Rockwell Automation in 1985.Defunct
AmdahlPublicDefunct 1997. Bought by FujitsuDefunct
Digital EquipmentPublicDefunct 1998. Bought by Compaq who was bought by HP.Defunct
Emerson ElectricRank 118Ranked 120 in the Fortune 500. No change.Operating
GouldPrivateAcquired in 1988 by Nippon Mining, still in operation.Operating
Hewlett PackardRank 110Rank 11 in the Fortune 500. Significant Increase.Operating
IBMRank 8Rank 18 in the Fortune 500. Fall.Operating
NCRPublicAcquired by AT&T in 1991. A restructured spin-off in 1996 was given the same name.Defunct
RockwellRank 48Divisions sold off in the 1990s and in 2001 Rockwell International was split into two companies, Rockwell Automation and Rockwell Collins ending the run of what had once been a massive and diverse conglomerate. Rockwell Automation ranks at 466, Rockwell Collins at 478. Significant fall.Operating
Schlumberger$39.38Still in operation. NYSE $59.67.Operating
Texas InstrumentsRank 91Rank 175 in Fortune 500. Significant Fall.Operating
United TechnologiesRank 20Rank 44 in Fortune 500. Fall.Operating
Western ElectricPublicSplit up into several divisions within AT&T with parts being spun off. Defunct in 1995.Defunct
WestinghouseRank 34Split up into several divisions and sold off with the core of the company renamed to CBS Corporation (Rank 174). Brand name of Westinghouse still continues today. Significant FallOperating
XeroxRank 42Rank 121 in the Fortune 500.Significant FallOperating
Blue BellPublicAcquired by VF Corporation in 1986.Defunct
Eastman KodakRank 28Filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2012. Significant FallOperating
AtariRank 483 in 1988Acquired by Hasbro in 1998. Infogame acquired Hasbro Interactive in 2000. Final assets of Atari acquired in 2008 for $11 million total. Atari suffers from significant financial issues. Significant FallOperating