Reading List: Scaling Up Excellence

UPDATED: March 1, 2014
PUBLISHED: March 1, 2014

Scaling up a business—whether transitioning from startup to prime time, growing a company’s market reach, increasing (or shrinking) its workforce, expanding its product line or ratcheting up its performance—is a challenge fraught with potential peril, say Stanford professors Robert I. Sutton, Ph.D., and Huggy Rao, Ph.D. The authors of Scaling Up Excellence spent seven years researching what they call the “vexing problem of more.” They scrutinized and dissected the issue from every angle, drawing on diverse cases and academic studies, frequent communication with “scaling veterans” and firsthand observation to identify the “key differences between scaling well and scaling badly.”

In their thorough volume, Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering and co-founder of the Center for Work, Technology and Organization, and Rao, a professor of organizational behavior, reveal the best practices and principles that successful leaders implemented. They share success stories, failures and cautionary tales about scaling up. For example, why did Home Depot’s expansion into China fail while IKEA’s succeeded? Sutton and Rao say Home Depot didn’t recognize that its “do-it-yourself” model wouldn’t fly in a “do-it-for-me culture” where car ownership is limited and cheap labor is plentiful. IKEA recognized this and adapted its messaging, focusing on its fee-based furniture assembly and home delivery. That’s just one of the many valuable lessons the authors teach so well.

by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao

Crown Business; $26

Jessica Krampe is the digital managing editor for A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Jessica has worked for news, entertainment, business and lifestyle publications. Outside of the daily grind, she enjoys happy hours, live music and traveling.