Charles A. O’Reilly III and Jeffrey Pfeffer

There is a story behind this book. For the past twenty-five years each of us has been trying to understand why some organizations invariably succeed at energizing their employees and are able to thereby enhance profitability and survival whereas others fail to tap the potential of their people, often to the detriment of the organization’s long-term financial performance. Over time, we have seen many examples of companies that were better and worse in tapping the potential of their people. We have chosen to tell you the stories of eight remarkable companies that stand out in how they manage to engage the emotional and intellectual resources of their people. There are, of course, other companies that do similar things that could be included in a book such as this. We do not maintain that these eight companies are necessarily the “best” at unlocking the hidden value in their workforce, or that each will be successful forever. As with all organizations, circumstances can change: new technologies can emerge that make strategies and core capabilities less useful; financial markets can shift; managers can make mistakes; or competitors can improve. These changes can undermine any organization, no matter how successful. But, for the present, each of the firms we describe is a great exemplar whose practices illustrate how companies can realize the full potential of their people. Whether they are still successful ten years from now is, for us, not the issue. Today, these companies collectively offer a clear window into understanding how great companies achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people.

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