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Scaling Up Excellence
Cover of Scaling Up Excellence
Scaling Up Excellence
Getting to More Without Settling for Less
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Wall Street Journal Bestseller
"The pick of 2014's management books." –Andrew Hill, Financial Times
"One of the top business books of the year." Harvey Schacter, The Globe and Mail
Bestselling author, Robert Sutton and Stanford colleague, Huggy Rao tackle a challenge that determines every organization's success: how to scale up farther, faster, and more effectively as an organization grows.

Sutton and Rao have devoted much of the last decade to uncovering what it takes to build and uncover pockets of exemplary performance, to help spread them, and to keep recharging organizations with ever better work practices. Drawing on inside accounts and case studies and academic research from a wealth of industries— including start-ups, pharmaceuticals, airlines, retail, financial services, high-tech, education, non-profits, government, and healthcare— Sutton and Rao identify the key scaling challenges that confront every organization. They tackle the difficult trade-offs that organizations must make between whether to encourage individualized approaches tailored to local needs or to replicate the same practices and customs as an organization or program expands. They reveal how the best leaders and teams develop, spread, and instill the right mindsets in their people— rather than ruining or watering down the very things that have fueled successful growth in the past. They unpack the principles that help to cascade excellence throughout an organization, as well as show how to eliminate destructive beliefs and behaviors that will hold them back.
Scaling Up Excellence is the first major business book devoted to this universal and vexing challenge and it is destined to become the standard bearer in the field.
Wall Street Journal Bestseller
"The pick of 2014's management books." –Andrew Hill, Financial Times
"One of the top business books of the year." Harvey Schacter, The Globe and Mail
Bestselling author, Robert Sutton and Stanford colleague, Huggy Rao tackle a challenge that determines every organization's success: how to scale up farther, faster, and more effectively as an organization grows.

Sutton and Rao have devoted much of the last decade to uncovering what it takes to build and uncover pockets of exemplary performance, to help spread them, and to keep recharging organizations with ever better work practices. Drawing on inside accounts and case studies and academic research from a wealth of industries— including start-ups, pharmaceuticals, airlines, retail, financial services, high-tech, education, non-profits, government, and healthcare— Sutton and Rao identify the key scaling challenges that confront every organization. They tackle the difficult trade-offs that organizations must make between whether to encourage individualized approaches tailored to local needs or to replicate the same practices and customs as an organization or program expands. They reveal how the best leaders and teams develop, spread, and instill the right mindsets in their people— rather than ruining or watering down the very things that have fueled successful growth in the past. They unpack the principles that help to cascade excellence throughout an organization, as well as show how to eliminate destructive beliefs and behaviors that will hold them back.
Scaling Up Excellence is the first major business book devoted to this universal and vexing challenge and it is destined to become the standard bearer in the field.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Chapter 1

    It's a Ground War, Not Just an Air War

    Going Slower to Scale Faster (and Better) Later

    Listen. This is the most important thing that we learned, the one to keep in mind every day if you are bent on spreading excellence to more people and places: those who master what venture capitalist Ben Horowitz calls "the black art of scaling a human organization" act as if they are fighting a ground war, not just an air war.

    In the air wars of World War II, commanders typically ordered pilots to drop bombs or strafe some general area in hopes of damaging the enemy. Unfortunately, such attacks were woefully inaccurate. Political scientist Robert Pape estimated that, during World War II, "only about 18 percent of U.S. bombs fell within 1,000 feet of their targets, and only 20 percent of British bombs dropped at night fell within 5 miles." Even when air strikes were more accurate, Allied leaders learned that without ground operations—where soldiers were close to targets, gaining or losing territory a few yards at a time—victory was impossible. Even today, when guidance systems ensure that 70 percent of bombs fall within thirty feet of targets, an air war alone is rarely enough to defeat an enemy. After reviewing NATO's seventy-eight-day air war in Serbia that was meant to force Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic to ban ethnic cleansing, retired U.S. Air Force General Merrill McPeak concluded, "In a major blunder, the use of ground troops was ruled out from the beginning."

    Similarly, savvy leaders know that just bombarding employees with a quick PowerPoint presentation, a few days of training, or an inspirational speech won't cut it if they want to spread some goodness from the few to the many. Certainly, there are junctures in every scaling effort when it is wise to choose the easier path or secure a quick victory. Yet as we dug into case after case, and study after study, we saw that every allegedly easy and speedy scaling success turned out to be one we just hadn't understood very well. Scaling requires grinding it out, and pressing each person, team, group, division, or organization to make one small change after another in what they believe, feel, or do.

    That is what Claudia Kotchka learned during her seven-year effort to spread innovation practices at Procter & Gamble. As vice president of design innovation and strategy, Kotchka started with a tiny team and one project and ended with over three hundred innovation experts embedded in dozens of businesses. We asked her the most important lesson that she had gleaned about scaling. Kotchka responded that she was naturally impatient, someone who wanted things done "right now" and as quickly and easily as possible. This action orientation served her team well, driving them to make progress each day, find savvy shortcuts, and achieve quick wins. But Kotchka explained that her team would have failed to scale if this penchant for action hadn't been blended with patience and persistence. "My CEO, A. G. Lafley, reminded me how important it was again and again." Kotchka's advice is reminiscent of something a McKinsey consultant—a veteran of the scaling wars—told us: When big organizations scale well, they focus on "moving a thousand people forward a foot at a time, rather than moving one person forward by a thousand feet."

    This kind of discipline is equally important in small and young organizations. It has been a way of life for Shannon May and her team since they launched Bridge International Academies, the chain of low-cost and standardized elementary schools that we described in the Preface. Consider the grueling gauntlet that Bridge created for...
About the Author-
  • Robert I. Sutton is professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, where he is co-founder of the Center for Work Technology and Organizations, Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and Institute of Design ("the d.school"). Sutton was named as one of 10 "B-School All-Stars" by BusinessWeek, which they described as "professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking far beyond academia." His books include The Knowing-Doing Gap (with Jeffrey Pfeffer), Weird Ideas the Work, and two New York Times bestsellers, The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss, Bad Boss.

    Huggy Rao is the Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford University, where he studies the social and cultural causes of organizational change. His honors include the W. Richard Scott Distinguished Award for Scholarship from the American Sociological Association and Sidney Levy Teaching Award from the Kellogg School of Management. He is the author of Market Rebels: How Activists Make or Break Radical Innovation," Which Intel's Andy Grove praised for providing "shrewd analysis" and an "aha moment."
Reviews-
  • -Trevor Clawson, Forbes

    "With a huge amount of research and insight within its covers, this is a timely read for young ambitious companies."

  • Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of People Operations, Google "A great read that provides real, practical advice whether you're a team of 5 or 50,000. Sutton and Rao find just the right stories to show how almost any team can get bigger and better."
  • Beth Comstock, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Office, GE "Scaling Up Excellence is one of the finest business books you'll ever read. It is rich with vivid examples, deep research, and practical advice on the toughest challenge organizations confront: how to spread success from a few small pockets of an organization to its entire fabric. Whether you're an entrepreneur who wants to get big, a CEO who wants to avoid stagnation, or a non-profit executive who wants make a deeper difference, Scaling Up Excellence is an essential read -- a playbook that belongs on the desk of every leader." -Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human "Innovation at scale and speed is our goal. Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao show us how to do it more often and better, knowing that scale matters."
  • -Shantanu Narayen, CEO, Adobe Systems "The Internet creates new possibilities for scaling, but scaling rarely happens because of technology alone. This insightful book shares the methods and strategies that successful leaders rely on to spread the beliefs and behaviors that can accelerate an organization's growth while simultaneously improving its processes." -Reid Hoffman, co-founder/chairman of LinkedIn and co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller The Start-up of You "Growth and reinvention are key to winning, especially in tech. In Scaling Up Excellence, Sutton and Rao outline a real-world view of the challenges leaders face, and provide wisdom and practical tips about how to master them. I loved the insights."
  • -Eric Ries, bestselling author of The Lean Startup "Startups sow the seeds of their culture from the very first day. Yet their ultimate success depends on knowing when and how to scale. Drawing on first hand accounts from a wide range of industries, Scaling Up Excellence is the first book to offer a detailed examination of the best practices needed to successfully scale without diluting the very qualities that made a company successful in the first place. An important book for corporations and entrepreneurs alike."
  • -Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation Studios "Maintaining excellence while growing is full of pitfalls and pain, and requires a great deal of thoughtfulness. Scaling Up Excellence gives us a well-crafted framework for thinking about and addressing the nitty-gritty problems on the ground without getting derailed by lofty goals. Sutton and Rao keep us focused on the personal actions required for tackling this leadership challenge."
  • -George Halvorson, chairman of the board, Kaiser Permanente "One of the challenges faced by any complex organization is how to improve performance by sharing best practices within the organization. Too often, scaling is done as an art. To be done well, it needs to be a science. 'Scaling Up Excellence' elevates scaling to a core competency instead of a talent. This is a worthwhile book to read."
  • - Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling a "A must-read. Renowned experts Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao are the first to tackle a pervasive problem that every leader faces: spreading and multiplying success. This landmark book is full of rich examples, powerful studies, and actionable insights for anyone who cares about making groups or organizations more effective."
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Getting to More Without Settling for Less
Robert I. Sutton
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