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Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less
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Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,743 ratings  ·  107 reviews
In Scaling Up Excellence, bestselling author Robert Sutton and Stanford colleague Huggy Rao tackle a challenge that determines every organization’s success: scaling up farther, faster, and more effectively as a program or an organization creates a larger footprint. Sutton and Rao have devoted much of the last decade to uncovering what it takes to build and uncover pockets ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Crown Business (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  1,743 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Not much new here. Executives need to walk the talk. Bad attitudes are toxic and should be exorcised quickly. Scaling well requires deliberate management of increased specialization, core values, and the flow of information. Can't recommend this one. ...more
Wil Reynolds
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book was a bit long, but I really liked certain examples. In spite of it being long, it read pretty quickly.

Scaling is something I have never gotten right, I think if you are like me, with a "I'll fix it" personality, reading this book really helps me to step back and say...what if I couldn't just fix it, and I had to build a long term sustainable way to "fix it" how would I tackle it then?

Examples of systems that wear down managers and organizations I found very helpful, as the "people stuf
Tõnu Vahtra
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Clusterfug, it's a real thing (wait, what?). Did not understand why there is so much hype about this book as it does not really stand out by itself (references from many other books which I have already completed). 4 points because of a few interesting examples, it doesn't seem that helpful as a applicable guide in tackling those challenges (the author actually did state that it's not easy but he kind of claimed that the book will make it easier).

“When big organizations scale well, they focus o
Aaron Helander
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Check out my video review here :)

Who should read: Any owner of a business or a manager who is working on making their team better and growing their business. Also, anyone who is working on changing the culture of their work environment.

Main Points: This book is about growing a company or business as well as how to create cultures of excellence. It talks about how you may need to add certain tasks and levels to your business to grow, but you may also need to subtract
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another fine offering from Bob Sutton ("The No A**hole Rule," "Good Boss, Bad Boss") and his co-author Huggy Rao, two Stanford profs and business-book writers. I received a review copy thanks to Goodreads and recently posted my review on my blog. Here's the link:

Matt McAlear
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
Really great material for looking at ways to scale up organizational excellence! Good read for anyone in a leadership position especially a high leadership role in which they set the tone. He gives lots of data and thoughts about organizational structures, management techniques, and solid psychological practices.
Jan 05, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: rad_man, newjobbooks
for more about the genesis of the book - see also Bob Sutton's blog:

referred in Adam Grant's list "The 12 Business Books to Read in 2014":
Erika RS
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, leadership, owned
This book had a lot of good advice. Some of it was common sense, but a lot of it was legitimately useful and perspective changing. Why two stars then? The organization was horrible. Instead of being organized in such a way as to emphasize the key ideas, the book consisted of lists of loosely connected ideas that were too long to be remembered (and yet, at the same time, were annoyingly repetitive). A couple other factors that led to the low rating were that many of the examples felt more like na ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sutton & Rao tackle the notorious challenge of companies facing the privilege of growth - scaling up the good parts - the effective parts that matter to a company’s survival & flourishing - and reducing the bad parts - the needless bureaucratic parts that can drag a company under. Scaling Up Excellence at times seems more like an anthology of cases that illustrate the authors’ points, such as the balancing of freedom to experiment against the importance of standardization represented by Buddhism ...more
Jonathan Brooker
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
Think of books from authors like the Heath Brothers, Jim Collins, and Malcolm Gladwell. Think of those kinds of books because clearly that's what these authors were doing as they wrote this one. Not only are some parts of this book copies of studies found in those books, but the writing style clearly is an attempt at mimicking that of those guys, with the attempts to make catchy names for every concept and so on. In that way it almost feels like the little sibling trying to copy their older brot ...more
Jeannie Hardeman
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Here's how useful I found this: I listened to the audio book, am re-reading an electronic copy of it, and have ordered physical copies for me and others.

The book is a practical guide for taking some pocket of awesome and spreading it to a wider audience. It really is that broadly applicable. Tons of stories based on Sutton's research of companies, many of which are very practical and instructive. You will have heard some of the anecdotes, but many were new to me.

The advice comes at all levels -
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
My favorite take away from this book was the idea of a premortem strategy where after making a decision, a team can break up into two groups where one imagines that the decision was a great success, and the other imagines it was a collossal failure. Then, each groups ponders what led to those outcomes, which can then be used to help strategize how to pursue the decision.

Otherwise, the book was a bit too wordy, with some really great examples to help drive their points, but at times, it felt quit
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book got me thinking about incentive mechanisms and how to communicate values across the organization.

One idea I liked was about processes being spread like Catholicism or Buddhism. Catholicism is rigid and cloned everywhere while Buddhism is fluid with a set of principles that can be implemented various ways. Some organizations will benefit from enforcing sameness everywhere. Within my current software management role I think a company should enforce overall best practices in a principle-c
Rick Yagodich
Dec 10, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crap
OK, I only made it 11% of the way through this book. For multiple reasons.

Firstly, it is a laborious read. To say it drags would be to do a disservice to dragging. The first half of the first chapter is the authors ranting about how wonderful they are, and how great their reasearc is. But providing nothing of value.

Secondly, by the end of that chapter, while a ream of examples had been stated, none of them provided even a smidgeon of practical advice. I can only assume that the rest of the book,
Mary Walter
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You have a great idea, and your business is off to a great start. Now what?
This book provides terrific, pragmatic tactics to ensure that you realize success. I especially like the concept of "Catholic" vs. "Buddhist" when creating company culture. Do you want a strict adherence to policy/practices (Catholic), or allow employees to do things their own way, as long as they follow the core belief (Buddhist)?
I think most businesses would benefit from designating which parts of their business need s
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
This book is one of the most honest looks at what makes a company great and shows that there is more than one way to build scale. What was most interesting to me wasn't just examples of major brands like Netflix but stories of how scale works in places like healthcare or transportation logistics. So much of scaling up success requires a certain amount of ruthlessness in eliminating what doesn't work and figuring out whether to amplify the good through direct replication or through taking the spi ...more
John Pabon
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Review #31 of my 52 week book challenge: Scaling Up Excellence.⁣

I'm so happy business books are getting better. Remember the days when you were forced to read some boring tome by the Harvard Business Review of outdated case studies? Wake up! We've entered a new era. ⁣

Scaling Up Excellence is a great read, full of bite-sized snippets of critical information from some of the best business minds. The points are easily understood, cases super relevant, and there's even a bit of China knowledge stu
Wally Bock
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the five best books I read in 2014

I think Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less is one of the best business books I’ve ever read. Period. I read it originally a couple of years ago, but I keep going back to it to dip into the research and the insights and mine the stories for more knowledge. My bottom line is simple: if you read business books, read this one.

Read my complete review at
Steve Granger
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review comes in contrast to a number of self-help management books that audaciously oversell ideas from the academic literature or personal experience to the nth degree. As such, Sutton and Rao read as balanced and careful purveyors of their deep knowledge of the academic literature on how to scale up one's organization. For a popular press book, I'd highly suggest this to any business owner/entrepreneur moving towards taking their business to the next level to gain insight into problems th ...more
Abhishek Sengupta
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-list
It is worth a read. The case studies or examples from real industry are worth reading. Ideo, Intuit, GE And Kaiser Permanante, to name some, are well illustrated and bring the message home. I have attended a few classes by the 2 professors and they always gave case studies to illustrate their teaching. Helps to ingrain principles like Buddhism vs Catholicism, Pre-mortem, Subtraction for growth. Overall a good read for people who work on scaling businesses, designing new products, innovations etc ...more
Kevin Eikenberry
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes books arrive at just the right time.

Perhaps that is why I feel so strongly about this book before I even finish.

You see this book is about growth and scaling your enterprise, project or team. Currently I’m doing all of these, so the message of this book is on point for me.

Aware of that fact, I wanted to write this in a way that isn’t overly biased because of my perspective.

Li Li
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I tried multiple times reading Sutton's books - good boss, bad boss and including this one. But I haven't been able to learn much from it. His books are full of t-shirt slogans: "the problem of more" - "spread a mindset, not just a footprint" - "name the problem." Such slogans can be inspirational with little practical usage. The ample examples in the books are more of anecdotes to me, with no data or scientific proof/backup.

I wouldn't recommend his books for now.
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone looking to expand their business or looking to increase productivity and civility among employees, this book is for you. It has a lot of insightful yet practical advice on how best to grow or improve a business without firing everyone but by taking practical steps of holding employees at all levels acceptable. I highly recommend this book and am looking forward to reading more from Robert Sutton.
Lars Corneliussen
Dec 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting insight on trade-offs one has to make when scaling out an organisation.

What I remember the most is the catholic vs. the buddhist way of scaling, where catholic takes a predefined process and product and just tries to scale it as is, while buddhist allows for more adjustments to the target market or segment. It's not one or the other, but allways a mix with a lot of trade-offs in either one direction.
Carl Josefsson
Falls in the same category as good to great, inspiring but sometimes a little to much text and rambling about and more importantly the framework is based on people and organizations that succeded successfully and then you look at what they did and say that this is the way forward to success...... But what about those who had tried similar approaches and didn't succeed?
Brett Ulrich
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book and the seven mantras inside are an invaluable tool for operational managers. I have found years after reading the framework provided here works to solve problems and communicate tactics which help projects succeed in the workplace. The book tends to ramble in later chapters and some of the examples (Yahoo) are no longer case studies for success.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book and the seven mantras inside are an invaluable tool for operational managers. I have found years after reading the framework provided here works to solve problems and communicate tactics which help projects succeed in the workplace. The book tends to ramble in later chapters and some of the examples (Yahoo) are no longer case studies for success.
Nina Simon
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
good examples, solid precepts, runs out of steam a bit in the final 1/4 but there's lots of good stuff before then. A small note: I especially appreciated the inclusion of many real-world examples in which women were the scale leaders. Not common in business books of this type. ...more
Todd Benschneider
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Must read for everyone involved in startups. Explains the complex dynamics of team behavior as a company grows and adds new employees. Scholarly quality read written with easy to read vocabulary and an easy to understand case study examples.
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Well-done, but slightly repetitive. I think the book could have been half as long, and likely twice as meaningful. I still would recommend reading it; it's just not the be-all/end-all read that I believe many think it is. ...more
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Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford and a Professor of Organizational Behavior, by courtesy, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Sutton studies innovation, leaders and bosses, evidence-based management, the links between knowledge and organizational action, and workplace civility. Sutton’s books include Weird Ideas That Work: 11 ½ Practices for Pro ...more

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