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'Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People' by Charles A. O’Reilly III and Jeffrey Pfeffer

Books on Business: 'Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People'

Sunday, March 18, 2001

By Carnegie Business Librarians


Hidden Value: How Great Companies Achieve Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People

By Charles A. O’Reilly III and Jeffrey Pfeffer

Harvard Business School


O’Reilly and Pfeffer, professors at Stanford University, are men with a cause -- that of bringing out the best in every employee, and in doing so, creating winning companies. They profile eight remarkable businesses in diverse industries, from Cisco, the major world supplier of networking equipment for the Internet, to AES, the world’s largest independent energy supplier. All of these businesses are service-oriented, but they have one other important thing in common: their employees come first. The authors believe that how a firm nurtures and uses talent within its work force is far more important than attracting new talent. Instead of placing the focus on individual stars, these companies create the conditions for each worker to become a star. They know that every employee who shines brightly on the job will produce satisfied customers.

How to achieve this is explained clearly through analyzing the practices of these exemplary firms. The key is in making specific values and beliefs -- such as trust, quality, truth, innovation -- the foundation of all corporate policies, creating an organizational team spirit that inspires and motivates everyone. The top executive is a “servant leader” who practices and encourages alignment to the principles of the company and who believes that work should be something you love to do.

These companies increase productivity and profit not by monitoring and controlling people but by offering them involvement, opportunity, autonomy, coaching and a delightful place to work. In the team culture of Southwest Airlines, if the pilots need to load bags, they’ll gladly do so. Cisco has a buddy for every new employee. At the Men’s Wearhouse, there are no sales clerks, only wardrobe counselors, titles that add dignity and respect. The authors convincingly demonstrate how these companies use the ideas, knowledge and creativity of everyone in the organization to unleash a powerhouse unbeatable in the market.

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