Tom Peters

Tammy Moseley

Tom Peters is best known as the co-author of the bestseller In Search of Excellence (1982), A Passion for Excellence (1985), and author of Thriving on Chaos (1987), and Liberation Management (1992). They all ranked at or near the top of the New York Times best-sellers list for years. They also have been bestsellers throughout the world.

Before In Search of Excellence made him one of the most influential business authors and speaker, Tom Peters worked for McKinsey and Company (1974-1981), an internationally prominent management-consulting firm of which he became a partner in 1977. Tom is a graduate of Cornell University where he earned two civil engineering degrees, and Stanford University where he earned an MBA and a Ph.D. in business. He served on active duty in the United States Navy in Vietnam, as a platoon leader, and in Washington D.C. during 1966 to 1970.1 For two years (1973-1974) he was a Senior White House Drug Abuse Advisor to President Nixon and was on the Cabinet Committee on International Narcotics Control.2

Tom left half-way through the writing of In Search of Excellence to find his own companies called, The Tom Peters Group. They include the Polo Alto Consulting Center, a center for management excellence, Not Just Another Publishing Company, and Excel-Media, Inc. The consulting and management centers are in California and they conduct intensive seminars for top management. The publishing companies are in Massachusetts and are responsible for audio, video, and print products. Tom and his family divide their time between California and Vermont.

Tom Peters is in demand as a speaker worldwide. For many years he has presented 50 or so major seminars each year. He travels and studies throughout the world in search of the best examples of how workplace teams are being mobilized, in order to go beyond what worked for managing twenty years ago. A constant theme of his speeches and writing is about "everlasting change." Everywhere and everyday managers confront "shattering and accelerating change."3 Change is todayís constant in all forms of employing industries.

Besides writing books he has authored over 100 articles for various newspapers and journals including Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Harvard Business Review to name a few. He has also written forwards to over 30 books including the Gore Report on reinventing government.4 Tom has recently started a series of paperback originals which became instant international bestsellers. He has created and starred in over a dozen of the most popular corporate training films ever made, and allied numerous specials.

Tom Peters describes himself as a "gadfly, champion of bold failures, prince of disorder, maestro of zest, professional loudmouth, corporate cheerleader, lover of markets, and capitalist." Research released in January 1996 in the Report on American Business Executives ranked Tom #1 on "Awareness and Credibility of Business Leaders." His credibility index score of 50 was more than twice that of the runner up, Bill Gates.5

Some of the repetitions themes Tom Peters urges management and employees to do is: accept change as a constant way of life; take risks and prepare to fail; encourage enthusiasm, pride, and celebration; stay up with information and technology; take the initiative to continue to re-educate yourself; give others credit; have a vision; listen; have pride in oneís organization; be flexible; learn to thrive on chaos and uncertainty, to list just a few.

Currently, Tom Peters, age 53, is taking a carefully engineered sabbatical. He says it is designed to help cure himself of his own workaholism as he is learning to say no to the demands that have dominated his life for the last 20 years. However, he is keeping a curtailed speaking schedule because it is something he truly enjoys doing.

In an interview with Rosemary Ellis he stated he has been in a hyper-achievement mode since elementary school. He feels he needs some time to break away and think about what it all means. He says he has to learn to change the notion that "you are your work and whenever you get antsy, you have to start working on one of the 73 projects that are available to the 98% of us who are busy beyond what time allows for."6 First one has to unglue everything in his life and then he has to try to pull it all back together again. He stated that "unless you walk out into the unknown, the odds of making a profound difference in your life are pretty low."7 Tom remarks that what has happened to him is very personal and it took a long time. He believes that whether it is a corporate turnaround issue or a personal turnaround issue you have to "eat a fairly large mouthful of dirt" before you can take change seriously. Change seldom happens on bright, sunny mornings when your relationship is at itís peak and you just received a raise. True change usually happens when "skies are dark and your mouth is full of dirt."8


Ellis, Rosemary, "Jumping off the fast track," an interview with Tom Peters, Working Woman, December 1995, 42-45.

Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, 1995, "Tom Peters--Lessons in Leadership," Liberal Arts and Sciences External Programming, //, 3 pages.

Peters, Tom, "All you need to know," Forbes ASAP, June 1995, 7 pages.

Peters, Tom, Thriving on Chaos, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987, 9-20, 40-45, 305-308, 465-477.

"Tom Peters Aims to Wow Booksellers Again," Publishers Weekly, March 6, 1995, 25-26.

WYNCOM, Inc., Kexington, KY, 1996, "Getting to Know Tom Peters," //, 2 pages.

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