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Recently called “the Red Bull of management thinkers” by Inc. Magazine, Tom Peters is co-author of In Search of Excellence—the book that changed the way the world does business and often tagged as the best business book ever. Sixteen books and nearly thirty years later, he’s still at the forefront of the “management guru industry” he single-handedly invented. What’s new? A lot. As CNN said, “While most business gurus milk the same mantra for all its worth, the one-man brand called Tom Peters is still re-inventing himself.” His most recent effort, released in March 2010: The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence. Tom’s bedrock belief: “Execution is strategy—it’s all about the people and the doing, not the talking and the theory.” To see the latest on Tom, visit tompeters.com, which was recently ranked #9 among “The Top 150 Management and Leadership Blogs.” Tom was also recently named to the Thinkers50 list of the world’s top business thinkers.
Short Takes: Tom Peters on how small companies succeed globally
Tom Peters: Design is everything
Keeping Up with Your Talent | Tom Peters | WOBI
The Basics Are the Basics Are the Basics Are the Basics: The Worse the Times, the Better They Work
The “engine” of the current economic mess is losing total touch with the basics: that is, lending money to people, by the millions in the end, who “obviously” couldn’t pay it back. In many ways, that is the whole story—at the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the pile of derivatives of derivatives of derivatives are truly stupid loans that any fool would say should never have been made.
- We get in trouble when we forget the basics.
- We get out of trouble when we remember the basics.
- We stay out of trouble when we become perpetually “insane” about the basics.
Peters wrote the book that spawned a management revolution because we placed too much emphasis on sophisticated “MBA thinking” and not enough emphasis on the stuff that led over a thousand people to show up for his grandfather Owen Snow’s funeral in little Wicomico Church, Virginia, over a quarter of a century ago.
Grandfather Owen had run a country store and he’d been counselor, banker, and friend, as well as shopkeeper, to thousands over the years. He was a math whiz (he passed a bit of that on to me), but those thousands showed up at his funeral because he never forgot the basics of taking the time to listen and putting people first!
The great news for today: The worst of the worst can be managed if we remember, and assiduously apply, the principals of Peters’ grandfather:
Does that sound simplistic?
But remember: We’re deep in doggy doo-doo because of nothing more than lending money to people who obviously (!!!) couldn’t pay it back.
A CEO of a mid-sized bank attended a seminar of mine in Northern California many years ago—but I remember the following as if it were yesterday. I’ve forgotten the specific context, but I recall him saying to me, “Tom, let me tell you the definition of the good lending officer. After church on Sunday, on the way home with the family, he takes a little detour to drive by the factory he just lent money to. Doesn’t go in or any such thing, just drives by and takes a look.”
At tompeters.com, you will find, for free downloading, the PowerPoint slide sets Tom has used in his presentations over the last five years. You’ll also find a Master Presentation and a couple dozen “Special Presentations” on narrow slices of subject matter, such as the new market trends mentioned above.
Surviving and Even Thriving Amidst the "Perfect Storm"
While many businesses will fail amidst the current economic crisis through no fault of their own, some will survive in spite of the odds—and a few will surprise everyone by turning a messy situation into economic-competitive advantage. Tough times are, in fact, golden opportunities to get the drop—and the long-term drop at that—on those who respond to bad news by panicky across-the-board slash and burn tactics and moves that de-motivate and alienate the workforce at exactly the wrong moment.
Tough times, indeed, require tough decisions—but thriving, not just surviving, is an option for those who mix the wisdom and boldness of leadership along with transparency and maximized employee involvement and engagement. Without suggesting that there is anything humorous about the pain that bad times cause, one couldsay that “this is when it gets fun” for truly talented and imaginative leaders at all levels and in businesses of every sort and size.
(Tom’s aptly-named book, Thriving on Chaos, published on the day the stock market crashed in 1987, suggests his extensive familiarity with the possibility of success in uncertain times.)
Ways to tailor this presentation:
- Leadership (Or: Leading in Totally Screwed-up Times!)
Developed a couple of years ago and honed ever since, Tom Peters calls it The Leadership50 -- Fifty strategies and tactics for vigorous leadership in times of uncertainty.
- Reinvention (Or: Twenty-seven Practical Ideas that will Transform Every Organization)
A concise, yet insightful and entertaining guide to the things you should be doing to make lemonade out of lemons.
Re-imagine: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age
Background: All bets are off … a brief tour of dramatic forces at work, from changing technologies and demographics to the rise of China and India and the profound effects of a new corporate risk profile. Strategies and tactics are laid out for accomplishing necessary, radical enterprise change. Plus: A “how to” for creating perpetually adaptive enterprises—ready for anything, prepared to turn on a dime. “The very ‘metabolism’ of the enterprise must be altered,” Peters says. In that vein, Re-Imagine! discusses:
- Wildly altered context (technology, China-India, global terrorism, etc.)
- Only answer: adaptive skills and bold-breathtaking innovation (top-line focus rather than cost-cutting focus)
- Race way, way up the value-added curve (implemented “game-altering solutions” rather than “services,” “experiences” rather than “transactions,” and much more)
- As part of value-added exercise, pursue Ripe & Enormous “new” markets—Women, Boomers & Geezers
- Radical (!!!) use of IS-IT
- A “Roster” of Weird & Wondrous & Entrepreneurial “Talent” engaged in “Wow Projects”
- “Metabolic Leadership” (Passionate-Radical Leaders who instill a Discipline of Execution, a Quick Tempo-Adaptive Culture and an appetite to “Eat Radical Change for Breakfast”)
Ways to tailor this presentation:
- A New World Order for Enterprise. Or: Re-imagine Everything!
This is to an extent re-statement. Tom Peters’ abiding theme-passion is energizing execs, in the public and private sectors, to attempt the bold leaps which he insists are survival requisites today. “I hope the view and approach I present is encompassing and original,” Peters says. "I know it is necessary."
- New Markets: Two Trends Worth Trillion$$$
There can be too much micro-slicing and dicing of markets, according to Tom Peters. In the process we often overlook huge opportunities. Peters has identified what he labels “the two most glaring deficits in the markets/marketing portfolio.” They are the need to pay far more attention to women as purchasers of consumer and commercial goods and services; and leaping on the boomer-geezer express.
- Getting Things Done
Tom Peters declares that we spend too much time planning, not enough time-thought on execution. Implementation can be addressed as a stand-alone topic or part of any of the above effective strategies and tactics for getting things done. Peter’s unconventional approach to project management is a mainstay of this presentation.
- A Passion for Passion
Peters calls this his “motivation speech.” “My passion is for passion,” he declares, “for energy and enthusiasm and boldness and guts and the willingness to screw up and then get up. This is part and parcel of all I present, but also a stand-alone topic. The idea is not, ‘This is cool.’ The idea is, ‘This is requisite in wildly gyrating times like ours.’ ”
Excellence: Continuing The Search
2007 marked the 25th anniversary of the publication of one of the most influential business books ever written: Tom Peters and Bob Waterman’s In Search of Excellence. Upon publication, the book immediately ushered in a management revolution, forever changing the way entrepreneurs and leaders viewed their relationships with their employees and customers. In the book, the authors reemphasized what Tom calls the “obvious ideas”: the paramount importance of an abiding orientation toward action over talk, matchless customer intimacy, a wholehearted devotion to acquiring and developing the best talent, entrepreneurship spurred internally, the ever-difficult task of “keeping it simple,” and leadership as “a product of passion, passion, passion.” These ideas are now considered “standard operating procedure” in businesses around the world—though often implementation does not live up to the standards practiced by the world’s best.
In this compelling presentation, Peters revisits and boldly extends the ideas that helped make In Search of Excellence a watershed event in both business and publishing—and launched the now mammoth “management guru industry.” Admitting that “the older I get, the less boring these ‘basics’ such as ‘people first’ become,” Peters says that these same ideas “that led us to take a gamble on Wal*Mart in 1982 animate the likes of Google, Starbucks and Commerce Bank today. In fact, the 100% implementation of these ideas is far more important—for survival’s sake—than it was 25 years ago.”
This presentation promises to inspire audiences of any type, anywhere. Peters’ own passion and intensity, audiences around the world report, has only grown with the passage of time.
Ways to tailor this presentation:
- Building an “Innovation Machine: In uncertain times like ours, innovation is inarguably top management’s Job One. Strategies and tactics and cases are offered to abet creation of an abiding “Culture of Innovation.”
- The Pursuit of Excellence in Health and Health Care
In the last 36 months, healthcare has become Peter’s passion and obsession. Not the legislation, but his long term abiding interest in operational excellence and a culture of Excellence. His focus is primarily patient safety, patient-centered care and home care/chronic-care associated with the rapidly aging population. Evidence-informed medicine and over-treatment are also areas of his intense study; the latter of course does coincide with reimbursement policy. As usual, Peter’s believes in experimenting your way to Excellence—the good news is that regardless of the law, numerous institutions of all sorts are experimenting aggressively with new approaches to achieving operational excellence. Peter’s sees this experimentation foreshadowing the most exciting-revolutionary decade of re-orientation in healthcare management practices—again, regardless of legislation and the new science.
- Talent Time!
It’s the people, stupid! Well, of course, it’s always been the people; but with a new value equation that puts dramatically more emphasis on innovation and creativity and NASA-like “to the moon” projects and multi-enterprise co-operation, talent (big word!) is more important than ever. Strategies and tactics are offered for taking a fresh, radical re-look at the “people (talent!) dimension.” Peters comes at this “bottom up,” focusing on what he calls “Brand You”—instilling an entrepreneurial attitude and penchant for excellence in every employee.
The Excellence Dividend
More Than Just A Speech
The overwhelming response from everyone I talked to was that they all thought Tom Peters was great. They appreciated his passion about clean and hygiene in hospitals. The prep work he did to tailor clean as one of those little BIG things was wonderfully inspiring to the association members.ISSA
This man... has brought excitement into management thinking. People leave Tom's talks bursting with ideas and hearts throbbing with enthusiasm.Thinkers50 Lifetime Achievement Award
In Tom's world it's always better to try a swan dive and deliver a colossal belly flop than to step timidly off the board while holding your nose.Fast Company, October 2003
Re-Imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age (opens in a new tab)
In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies (opens in a new tab)