America's business decline, which has made Japanese management techniques look good and made B-school number-crunching look bad, has also spurred a search for right-acting American companies--of which this is the most ambitious example to date. Peters and Waterman, two McKinsey and Co. consultants, have selected out 43 prominent models of ""excellence"" (IBM, Procter & Gamble, McDonald's, Hewlett-Packard, etc.), identified eight people-centered traits that they share, and worked up some theoretical explanations for the failure of the number-crunchers and the success of the people-centered breed. (The minuses of the one approach--conservative, ""heartless,"" negative, anti-experimental--are the pluses of the other, with reference also to psychological studies of motivation.) The authors then elaborate enthusiastically on each of the eight traits--as manifest at IBM, etc. A cynic might note that the most concrete attribute on the list (#6 Stick to the knitting), arguably a precondition for others (like #2 Close to the customer; #3 Autonomy and entrepreneurship; #5 Hands-on, value driven), is that almost none of these companies is a conglomerate or part of a conglomerate. The merest skeptic will suspect that the success of these behemoths involves more than recognizing ""that the individual human being still counts,"" and adopting motivational techniques and open communications. The quick learner will bridle at being presented with the same simple precepts in one after another context--while the selective reader can find a leaner, sharper presentation of many of the same themes in The Mind of the Strategist, by McKinsey Tokyo manager Kenichi Ohmae, and Corporate Cultures, by Harvard ed prof Terrence E. Deal and McKinseyite Allan A. Kennedy. This is tantamount to an indoctrination session in Up-with-People business evangelism.