A PASSION FOR EXCELLENCE: The Leadership Difference by Thomas J. & Nancy K. Austin Peters

A PASSION FOR EXCELLENCE: The Leadership Difference

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Over 500 pages of trendy, colloquial bloat from the co-anthers of, respectively, In Search of Excellence and The Assertive Woman. Largely on the basis of anecdotal evidence, this odd couple declare a back-to-basics revolution in management techniques, at the heart of which is--yes, indeed--a passion for excellence. Peters and Austin may well be on to something, but too often seem more interested in making points than reaching practicable conclusions. In fact, their central conceit--MBWA, i.e., managing by wandering around--is an accurate analogue for the stop-and-start narrative. The authors' focus is deep as well as broad, encompassing a plant manager, an Air Force general, Baltimore's mayor, an employee-owned garbage company, a mailorder house, and SAS (Scandinavian Air System) in addition to scores of variously sized corporate exemplars, from Apple Computer to Perdue Farms, et al. They also offer a welter of case studies in probing such open secrets of organizational success as superior customer/client service, innovation, recognition of achievement at all levels, and accepting occasional failures as concomitants of accomplishment. But the short-take format, which may jump from sharing/caring cant to fulsome praise of a maverick who bucked a system, is a constant distraction. Also offputting: ceaseless interjections of Q&A exercises (""How often are you out of your office? Be specific. . . Go over each in-office/inheadquarters event and ask yourself if it could not have taken place as readily on the other person's turf."") and to-do lists (""Pencil in 15 percent of your calendar time to work directly on anti-Mickey Mouse activities""). Troublesome as well is the fact that many Peters/Austin paradigms do not add up. In lauding the contractor who personally checks first with crane operators or other lower-echelon people (perish the thought of personnel!), they never quite explain how self-conscious populism sits with site supervisors and other senior executives. Even for true ""excellencites,"" the sunny-side-up text proves more than a bit unwieldy--and unworldly.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1985
Publisher: Random House