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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sutton and Rao bring it!
You might think Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao are a bit “slow” when you realize it took seven years to come up with seven Scaling Mantras. But, you’d be wrong. “Scaling Up Excellence” is filled with powerful and practical ideas that are illustrated with colorful stories and supported by scholarly research.

7 Scaling Mantras:...
Published 5 months ago by Dan

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh, if it were so easy
I consider this book, really, just a book about change management. "Just" is probably unfair because there aren't a litany of great change management books that aren't simplistic or fables. So, suggestions like "get the cool kids on board," is fun, new lingo and thus reading the book is a fairly fresh read, but I think the book overreaches. There's no...
Published 1 month ago by Brian D. Newby


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sutton and Rao bring it!, February 4, 2014
This review is from: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Hardcover)
You might think Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao are a bit “slow” when you realize it took seven years to come up with seven Scaling Mantras. But, you’d be wrong. “Scaling Up Excellence” is filled with powerful and practical ideas that are illustrated with colorful stories and supported by scholarly research.

7 Scaling Mantras:

1. Spread mindset, not just footprint.
2. Engaging all the senses. (Personally, I want every lobby to smell like coffee or popcorn.)
3. Link short-term realities to long-term dreams.
4. Accelerate accountability.
5. Fearing the clusterfug.
6. Scaling requires both addition and subtraction.
7. Slow down to scale faster - and better - down the road.

Anyone familiar with Bob’s work expects a no-nonsense approach to writing and management - splashed with some tongue-in-cheek color. The addition of Huggy didn’t change the tone of this work.

One of my favorite chapters is: “Bad is Stronger Than Good: Clearing the Way for Excellence.” That’s the kind of stuff I expect from Bob. Get your head out of the clouds and face the hard truth that a little bad goes a long way.

I read one or two leadership books a week. “Scaling Up Excellence” is must reading. The principles in this book, if implemented, will change your leadership/management and your organization.

Seven years in the making, “Scaling Up Excellence” is a bargain.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, Compelling, Valuable!, February 6, 2014
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Sutton and Rao offer a comprehensive guide to management in a package of enticing stories, subtly supported by references to high-end research. Their personal history in the Silicon Valley and their global access to interesting organizations provides the backdrop.

MAIN THEME & WHO SHOULD READ
The main theme is that, while many good practices exist in organizations, they either get lost or there are difficulties when attempts are made to spread them (scale them) across the organization. The breadth of this theme means that this book will provide value to anyone who would like to see organizations improve. The benefits are not limited by industry, functional area, or organizational size.

KEY IDEAS: THE SEVEN MANTRAS
Sutton and Rao are far more direct than most academics; it often takes a lot to get a professor away from an “it depends” answer. In this instance they have enough background to be confident with the following:

We’ve identified reliable signs that scaling is going well or badly, and we’ve distilled these signals into seven mantras. If you are embarking on a scaling effort [I’ll add if you are doing anything to make your organization better], memorize them, teach them to others, and invent ways to keep them firmly in focus -- especially when the going gets rough.

Spread a mindset, not just a footprint. This first one is their, and your, protection against being labeled a fad.
Engage all the senses. From my perspective, this is where you consider how to weave together human, technical, and organizational practices such that they work together, not against your goals. It’s also where I realize that my presentation of these ideas is much less colorful, and perhaps less likely to scale.
Link short-term realities to long-term dreams. Organizations that can do this have mastered ambidexterity -- the ability to both get work done now, and not let that get in the way of great things in the future. (In my mind, this is a precursor to solving the The Innovator's Dilemma.)
Accelerate accountability. This one sings to me as a focus on transparency. I’ve asked in the past, “What evidence, tools, and techniques do people in mainstream organizations think they need to move in this direction?” The examples provided here may move us closer to my ideal.
Fear the clusterfug. Yes, they are using a euphemism, but it gets across that we can't allow even mundane bad things to get worse. Speak up. For those wanting to use their business research background: Don’t escalate commitments to bad situations. Think about the Denver baggage-handling fiasco and fear a similar outcome on your watch.
Scaling requires both addition and subtraction. This ties directly to the idea of managing for now and for the future. Sometimes activities that have worked to create excellence stop working as you scale. As Sutton and Rao note, having an all-hands meeting every week makes great sense for a small organization, but you are likely to have to shift the form of this activity as you grow. Information flow and commitment are still important, but you need to be willing to find new ways that fit your growth.
Slow down to scale faster--and better-- down the road. I completely agree. I am wondering why, in my writing, I start with this one (in the form of “Stop-Look-Listen”), and yet they end with it. Perhaps thinking of this as a list is the problem. It’s not a list, it’s a cycle or a weaving, which also goes along with their borrowing Michael Dearing’s image of whether this is Buddhism versus Catholicism (see Chapter 2).

APPLY THESE IDEAS
My goal with this review is to get you to read the book. You will benefit. Your organization will benefit. The next time I teach a general graduate management class, Scaling Up Excellence will be a required reading.

I’m still trying to decide how much experience in organizations you need to have to gain value from their ideas -- and I’d love your opinion. Is this a book to help undergraduates trying to understand the complexities of organizations? If you are a mentor, is this a book you would suggest to a person in their first full-time job? Without a doubt it’s a book I’d give to someone taking on a new leadership role at any level.

Disclosure: My review copy was provided by the publisher. I’ve also purchased a copy to gift to a colleague.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Step into the elevator - empower your business to ascend to the penthouse., February 6, 2014
This review is from: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Hardcover)
Rarely is a business challenge so universal and far-reaching. Every organization, regardless of size or sector, must grapple with the challenge of scaling and cascading excellence. We can often identify pockets of excellence in an organization, but rarely can we pinpoint how to spread these pockets from the few to the many.

Though we often talk about scaling in terms of addition and multiplication, Sutton and Rao effectively illustrate that scaling is not only a "problem of more" but also a "problem of less". Because bad behavior is stronger than good, scaling requires "plumbing before poetry". Drawing on a multitude of case studies, anecdotes, and academic research, "Scaling up Excellence" is not a series of catchphrases. Instead, it outlines several hallmarks of scaling coupled with practical and actionable strategies. Only by understanding when - and to what extent - best practices should be replicated and spread, can organizations thrive and prosper. There is no substitute for the practical advice and years of research contained within the colorful covers of this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart Growth, February 16, 2014
By 
Jonathan Littman (Sausalito, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Hardcover)
Growth is something we all assume will happen. Invent something cool, deliver a needed service, and you will naturally prosper and increase revenues, right? But what if there is a better way to grow, or scale? What if you need to constantly check whether it’s time to go “Buddhist” style or “Catholic?” What if growth depends on regularly stoking “hot causes” and linking them to “cool solutions”?

Bob Sutton is a veteran Stanford professor and organizational guru who has written ground-breaking books about the nuances of interpersonal and management innovation, often with his characteristic humor and humanity in such bestsellers as The No ARule.

Here, he has teamed up with fellow Stanford professor, Huggy Rao to tackle something incredibly complex and important: Why do so many businesses stumble as they grow? Sutton and Rao tell us in engaging, behind the scenes stories why Google and Facebook have scaled effectively while Starbucks and others have stumbled. Flexibility is a key positive message: Facebook advocates fast development and gives engineers the leeway to “feel safe to break some stuff along the way; they also widely promote “hack a month” where each year employees are loaned to another group for a month. Google, surprisingly, despite its meteoric growth, “has always been notoriously slow to hire…every new hire is still approved at the organization’s highest levels.”

One of the things you can count on in a Sutton book are stories you’ll be able to tell at your next business dinner or meeting. But unlike so many books today, these aren’t just culled from business articles or the web. Bob and Huggy have interviewed dozens of top executives at many of the nation’s premiere companies. There are priceless gems, like this from a Netflix executive, who said the company’s entire policy on expensing, entertainment, travel, and gifts is encapsulated in this simple directive: “Act in Netflix’s best interests.” As Sutton and Huggy note: this minimalist approach creates a positive, virtuous cycle: “Employees with impressive skills and motivation are attracted by the pay. Then they stay -- and work like dogs-- because of the autonomy, pride in their work, and lack of friction.”

What’s remarkable in these pages is the amount of truth the authors dig out and the absence of B.S. Growing a business cannot be reduced to a simple, seven step formula, and Scaling Excellence reflect that in the variety of tactics they forward.

Management, as anyone knows who has the guts and stamina to have done it, is the ground war of building a business. It’s imperfect, ugly and shot through with human foibles. Sutton and Rao show how not just to survive but actually thrive, and live to fight another day.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something old, something new, something borrowed - nothing blue but bloated too?, March 30, 2014
By 
Gary Spedding "alcbevgary" (Brewing and Distilling Analytical Services, LLC, Lexington, KY, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Hardcover)
Scaling Up Excellence - Robert I Sutton and Huggy Rao. Crown Business Publishers, NY, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-385-34702-0.

As readers of any of my earlier (“business book”) reviews will note I opine that it is seldom to be found today a non-guru “network” supported book touting anything really new and exciting. It is usually much the same story with perhaps a few gems of wisdom thrown in. This book, in my opinion, is a bit of both – some regurgitated stories (the psychological tests covered by the likes of Dan Ariely, et al, notes from M. Gladwell and the likes and a few business/hospital horror stories thrown in) and some new insights. It clearly was a LABOR of love for these authors – labor being the operative word.

The book is a bit unwieldy in terms of its coverage. It could have been at least a hundred pages shorter (as it is at 325 or so pages it is definitely breaking the norm of such books appearing today). I read this through in about a day and half in anticipation that the last chapter would be a concise summary of the other 250 or so pages (I did not skip ahead though many books of this genre cut to the chase and give the entire book away in the end piece). The gems were only scattered here and there (the stories a bit disjointed and the authors waxing lyrical) until the summary chapter. While it is true the summary only revealed its gold after having read the rest of the book less bulk in the text could have been justified with a clearer end chapter.

The authors end the book with a lengthy essay on how it came to be and appear to be trying to justify why each and every story and interview were necessary (though they tout that much was left out – thank goodness!). With a generous set of end notes the stories could have been more concise and even bullet-pointed or tabulated. I assume this could be a text or required reading for their courses – it is certainly a big plug for Stanford, and I question if the authors in teaching actually use any visual aid materials or just sit there with their guests and students and recite the stories and interviews in depth (in fact the chapters were a mix of lecture and, at times, lengthy interviews – chopping up the clear cut story, rather than summaries.

All told it is an interesting, though long, read with some new insights for business though it is not as novel as I think they would have liked it to be. One of their key points in scaling up is not to get bloated and yet I feel a bit as though that is what happened with their book – though it covers a lot of ground. Read it and see if you concur. When posting I did note it has many very solid reviews here - I think it an important book but still question how much new material can come out of business schools and the network these days.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful insights to a complex issue, March 31, 2014
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This review is from: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Hardcover)
This is quite a different from many business books available.

It’s not a short, light, easy read -- it’s about twice as long as many business bestsellers. However, it’s well-written and fun to read, with plenty of real-life stories and details that kept me turning the pages.

Nor does it try to distill the research findings into a simple recipe or defined set of principles. Bob and Huggy’s research showed that scaling up is a complex issue; and so in their book, they wanted to avoid giving the impression that a simple recipe like “5 steps to scaling” would guarantee success. There aren’t tips that will work in every situation. Instead, the book provides themes, principles, and examples, so you can think about which specific things will work for your organization.

Even the seven “scaling mantras” mentioned in many of the other reviews don’t capture the book’s truths … that was just an exercise to shape your mindset as you started the book.

If you want a quick roadmap to follow (which may or may not actually work), go read a different book. If you want thoughtful insights that to a complex issue, with proven ideas to consider for your organization, and meaningful litmus tests to determine whether you’re on the right track at any point in time (before it’s too late), this is the book for you.

Here are just a few of my favorite take-aways from Scaling Up Excellence:

It’s a ground war, not just an air war: bombarding people with a training session or quick communication campaign doesn’t work; it requires pressing each person, division, and group to make one small change after another in what they believe, feel, or do.

Starting with a full working prototype (rather than theory) that your people can see

Connect-and-cascade process: going beyond the usual “cascading through the management ranks” by using social bonds to spread the right mindset

Guardrail strategy: specifying as few constraints as you possibly can—picking those precious few that matter most and pack the biggest wallop, and then leaving people to steer between and around them as they see fit.

Striking the right balance between Catholicism (replication) and Buddhism (customization) for your organization and goals

Once is not enough, and One is not enough: the best leaders find themselves saying things over and over, in a variety of ways and through a variety of methods

Team size: creating a team that’s too large is the biggest mistake leaders make

Case study: Kaiser Permanente shifting mindset from hospital-as-hub to home-as-hub model of health care
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At first I wasn't impressed, but read on..., June 26, 2014
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This review is from: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Hardcover)
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At first I wasn't impressed. The first few pages are filled with bragging about the names of their big clients and name dropping big silicon valley firms .... some of whom not only do I lack admiration for, but instead are global leaders in unethical behavior (some of which are not their clients). But once you read past that, the book is filled with very practical advice. What is useful is that unlike many "single themed" management books, this one really does discuss many aspects of scaling -- particular the people and organization structure. I was delighted to see rational advice (call it the flip-side) of every idea. That is -- here's a good idea -- but be aware it doesn't work here, there, and over there... etc. After a while some of it seems a bit repetitive, but overall it is a keeper. I read a few management books every year and many end being handed off or sold off, but I think this one is a keeper. What I enjoyed most is the almost continuous stream of short narratives (stories) to setup and explain each idea -- and often the reasons not to use the idea as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not new material, just presented in a good way, April 8, 2014
This review is from: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Hardcover)
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I've read a number of business books over the years, a lot of reviewers mention "Good to Great" and this I don't believe is the same caliber as that book, however this book still has some really great concepts on how to scale your company, team, yourself to be able to get more done, with less resources. I'm not going to say the book is really exciting, parts of it really bored me and I had to skim those pages to move on, but the majority of the book really had good content.

For example, I really like chapter 8, it's about imagining you have already succeeded (or failed) at something. This puts your mind in a state where you can ensure success follows. It gets you to think differently, you don't worry about "what if it doesn't happen?" because in your head it already worked and it was successful. It's a great message on positive mindset.

I would recommend this, As of the time I'm writing this the kindle book is about half the price of the paperback, no reason you shouldn't go the kindle route, I don't believe you miss anything in that format.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended - a must-read business book, February 16, 2014
This book is all about spreading success. How to take the excellence displayed by an individual, a team, a project, a business unit and enable more people inside and outside of the organization to achieve a similar level of success.

When I first heard about the book, I wasn't sure how applicable it would be to my work. I'm an independent consultant that works with technology organizations, often IT departments in large corporations. I thought this would be a book geared towards CEOs and startup founders: people that were trying to make their organizations bigger. But I quickly realized that scaling up excellence is part of my work, too. When I help organizations adopt best practices, I'm trying to help them scale excellence. When I help an organization take a successful project and repeat that success on other projects, that's scaling up excellence, too.

In the business and non-profit worlds, scaling up excellence needs to be done constantly on a large scale and a small scale. In fact, in the new world of work I'd argue that scaling up excellence is now everyone's core job description. This book helped me think about that opportunity in new ways. I bet it will help you, too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book from a Top Expert in Organizational Behavior, February 7, 2014
This review is from: Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less (Hardcover)
Having taken one of Bob's classes at Stanford and read his previous book, I had big expectations for this book. And I can confidently say this book will not disappoint the reader.

Bob has an engaging and inspiring teaching style, and this translates into writing. He has in-depth knowledge of what makes organizations tick. Often the challenge with organizations when they grow large is that they forget the good behaviors that got them there in the first place. This book addresses the challenges with sustaining those good behaviors and gives fantastic suggestions on how to 'scale up' the excellence. He supports his writing with lively anecdotes and a great sense of humor that will keep the reader entertained.

A must read for anyone looking to build and sustain a culture of excellence in their organization, regardless of how big the organization is!
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Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less
Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less by Robert I. Sutton (Hardcover - February 4, 2014)
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