The one-sentence summary

A simultaneous blend of loose and tight properties is the perfect blend for running a successful business.


There are eight basic principles of how to run a successful business and stay ahead of the competition. These are:

  • A bias for action – get out there and try something
  • Close to the customer – don’t be distracted by the internal stuff
  • Autonomy and entrepreneurship – even if you’re big, act small
  • Productivity through people – that’s all companies are made of
  • Hands-on, value-driven – top companies make meaning, not just money
  • Stick to the knitting – business diversity almost never works
  • Simple form, lean staff – have a simple structure and outsource a lot
  • Simultaneous loose-tight properties – a combination of centralised and decentralised gives the best blend

Communication works best when systems are informal, intensity is extraordinary, it is given physical supports, there are forcing devices, and it acts as a tight control system.


  • There is a lot of material to work on. When they turned up the lights at Western Electric’s Hawthorne plant, productivity went up. It went up again when they turned them down. In many companies management is no more than an endless stream of Hawthorne effects.
  • Chronic use of the military metaphor leads people repeatedly to overlook a different kind of organisation.
  • The McKinsey 7-S Framework shows shared values surrounded by structure, systems, style, staff, skills and strategy.
  • The exclusively analytical approach run wild leads to an abstract, heartless philosophy.
  • Analysing a dead fish does not tell you everything about the live fish.
  • Positive reinforcement nudges good things onto the agenda rather than off.
  • Adhocracy is needed to offset bureaucracy (Alvin Toffler)
  • Small groups are great chunking devices for getting things done.
  • Do it, fix it, try it is the mantra of experimenting organisations:bootlegging
  • We don’t kill ideas but we do deflect them


  • At the very least people should be aware of what the book proposes
  • The biggest criticism of it is that many of the featured companies have since disappeared. The authors’ response is that there weren’t writing Forever excellent and one can still be inspired by the good things
  • The halo effect claims that books such as this are little more than story telling – if it were that easy to follow eight basic principles then all companies would have done so and been a roaring success – which clearly they have not.