What It Takes Seven Secrets of Success from the World's Greatest Professional Firms

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-02-11
  • Publisher: Wiley

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What It Takes is the distillation of lessons learned during nearly half a century of working backstage with the leaders of major professional firms as a trusted adviser on strategy and management, observing a few firms rise deliberately to leadership while many others with comparable hopes could not. Over and over again, in dozens of private meetings with firm leaders, the core questions were: Why do some firms rise to leadership-and why do most not make it? What does it take to excel? Perhaps even more important, what does it take to sustain excellence over years and decades, through success and adversity? Experience teaches that in a competitive market, organizations can rise to acknowledged leadership only by excelling in several specific areas: defining a compelling organizational mission and developing a strong complementary culture; consistently recruiting clearly superior people and training them intensively; organizing and motivating them to work in effective teams devoted to serving important clients on their most important problems; and continuously finding new and better ways, both large and small, to deliver distinctive value for clients. The extensive research for this book is based on decades of studying the success and failure of hundreds of professional firms in North America, Europe and Asia, and on over 300 formal interviews with the past and current leaders of the five extraordinary professional firms that exemplify the elements of durable excellence-McKinsey in consulting, Cravath, Swaine & Moore in law, Goldman Sachs in investment banking, Capital Group in investment management and Mayo Clinic in health care.

Author Biography

Charles D. Ellis was for three decades managing partner of Greenwich Associates, the international business strategy consulting firm. A popular teacher, he has taught advanced courses on investing at the business schools of both Harvard and Yale, is the author of fifteen books, including the bestselling Winning the Loser's Game, and has served on the governing boards of Yale University, Harvard Business School, Exeter, NYU Stern, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Whitehead Institute.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction xi

I. Achieving Excellence

Chapter 1: Mission 3

An Inspiring Long-Term Purpose

Chapter 2: Culture 25

How We Do Things around Here

Chapter 3: Recruiting 47

Getting the Right People

Chapter 4: Developing People 65

Training, Educating, and Organizing for Excellence

Chapter 5: Client Relationships 97

Developing Ties That Last

Chapter 6: Innovation 111

Changing How the Game Is Played

Chapter 7: Macro Innovation 133

Changing the Game

Chapter 8: Leadership 151

Bringing the Secrets Together

Chapter 9: . . . and Luck 173

Sometimes It Really Matters

II. Sustaining Excellence

Chapter 10: Trouble 181

Excellence Challenged

Chapter 11: Arthur Andersen 211

Excellence Lost

Afterword 245

Thanks 249

Notes 251

About the Author 285

Index 287

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