Still In Search of Excellence 40 years later

15 December 2022


I sometimes get asked when I began to take an interest in organizational development and how to "build a business". And, like many others have experienced throughout their careers, it is often about the right combination of time and place, hard work and then a bit of luck. But several years ago, one particular book convinced me that it takes more than that.

While I studied to become cand.polit., I took the subject of organizational theory. I was what many at the time called a "soft cand.polit.", because I was not particularly interested in microeconomics and the many mathematical formulas and calculations that these subjects were about. Instead, I was interested in the study of the structure of organizations and how to conduct "leadership" and stimulate motivation.

In the subject organizational theory, I was given the task of presenting a self-selected book. I chose the American bestseller "In Search of Excellence" by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. The book is based on the authors' study of 43 successful American companies, including IBM and Hewlett-Packard, among others. Through their research, Peters and Waterman identified eight common characteristics that made the companies successful.

“Som Co-CEO i Delegate er de tre ovenstående karakteristika; medarbejderomsorg, stærke værdier og et målrettet fokus på kunden, helt afgørende for mit daglige arbejde, for det er de grundsten, som Delegate bygger på, og som vi skal vokse ud fra.”

Peter Østergaard
Co-CEO, Delegate

For those of you who have not read or know this fant?astic book, here are some points from the book that I found very interesting – and still find inspiration in to this day:

  • The most successful companies sincerely care about their employees
  • Excellent companies are powered by their values
  • Top companies consistently focus on their customers

If you have worked with building a company, management or organizational development, these points should not surprise you, but when the book was published back in 1982, they were quite an eye-opener to many.

Peters and Waterman's book was ahead of its time and broke with the idea that running a business is only about rational behavior and the bottom-line figures: A company consists of colleagues and customers who are human and not robots. Focus is on the human being both internally and in the dialogue with costumers.

Of course, employees will always want good conditions and a decent salary, and customers want service and a good product. But according to Peters and Waterman, employees and customers want more than that. They want 'purpose', which the eight identified characteristics in 'In Search of Excellence' cover.

As Co-CEO of Delegate, the three beforementioned characteristics; employee care, strong values and a targeted focus on the customer are crucial, because these are the cornerstones on which Delegate is based and from which we must grow. We differentiate ourselves through our culture and our values – both towards colleagues and customers, we call it our employee and costumer promise – and we believe that this is the right way to go if we want to ensure a company and organization that constantly develops and subsequently grows.

For many years, we have worked purposefully with the challenge of growing in size while maintaining Delegate's presence and fundamental values. In an effort to maintain our strong values, we have created a written set of values – our very own version of Emma Gad's “Etiquette” – and it says that “nærvær”, reciprocity and recognition, our three values, are crucial to the way we interact with each other and our customers in Delegate. The purpose is to have a common, written identity in our company, which everyone works on the basis of – regardless of the number of colleagues.

Which book has inspired you the most? Please share in the comments.