Tom Peters and The Race Beyond
by Rick Sidorowicz

Back in October 1994 I had the opportunity to "experience" Tom Peters in action, and I think that’s really what got me started on this godforsaken quest to find out what’s truly important in business and how to create a more meaningful future in my little corner of the world.

A raging, inexorable, thunder lizard evangelist!

The ultimate job description! It suits him to a tee. Tom Peters was controversial, outrageous, passionate, funny, and totally absorbed with delivering his ‘beyond’ everything message to anyone who would listen. He did it very well, with no glitz, just a few slides, and his unique firebrand blend of business logic and compulsive energy. 

Crazy times call for crazy organizations!

His basic premise was unwound rationally and logically, and few could disagree. In stable times we need large, stable organizations, with zero standard deviation – McDonaldization - how about ‘Mc-Ordinaries’. In today’s rapidly changing, unpredictable environment, and international economy with literally many hundreds of millions of knowledge workers developing very quickly in the emerging economies, innovation is critical. The traditional leading economies must adapt to remain competitive. 

Fast paced! Brain based!

The knowledge era is upon us where value added is derived from ‘intellectual capital,' know how, responsiveness, and service. Witness Nintendo with sales of over $10 billion and profits of over $1 billion. The staggering impact of the age of ‘brain power’ is that in 1992 these numbers translated into pretax profits $1.5 million per employee! Talk about a strategic leveraging of knowledge and brain power!

Tom Peters’ prescription was to out innovate the competition and create the perpetual ‘surprise factory’ - for a fast paced, brain based organizational model of innovation. 

A few ‘beyonds’ to give the flavour of his message:

Beyond decentralization
 - break up, obliterate bureaucracies into small, spunky businesses. ‘When was the last time you saw a spirited, obsessed, energetic unit of 3000 people?’

Beyond empowerment
- every person is a business person. How about a rapid deployment team of two teamsters handling everything from custom engineering, manufacturing, installation, and 'relationship management,' and in the process cutting order turnaround time from weeks to hours!

Beyond everything!

Beyond loyalty
 - developing the mind set of the independent contractor. Work becomes a series of projects, adding value for specific customers internally and externally.

Beyond reengineering 
- the organization as an intelligent organism, with fluid, independent groups of problem solvers. How about 'just in time talent,' and organizations without head offices - homeless expertise.

Beyond learning
 - the curious corporation, and the age of creation intensification. Quick exercise - make a list of five people you admire; Question 1. Would you hire them? Question 2. Would they come to work for you if you offered them a job?

Is it weird enough?

Beyond TQM
 - toward wow! Get kinky, dazzling and excite your customers to stand out in a crowded market with a flood of flawless products. Is it weird enough and crazy enough for the context that is taking place?

Beyond change
 - to perpetual revolution. Compress ten years of change into months, then take a deep breath and start again. 

Tom Peters did ‘push the needle all the way over’ calling for perpetual revolution not change, anarchists not change agents, action, action, action, the pursuit of embarrassing failures, no tepid responses, focus amidst the confusion, always heading in the opposite direction, and perpetually subjecting everything to the IIWE test - is it weird enough? 

It may be crazy  but it all makes sense.

A passion for failure? Have there been any great leaps forward without blunders and failures along the way? Revolution and throwing it all up in the air and starting with a blank sheet? Can you leap a chasm in two bounds? How about an active strategy of disrupting the status quo to create an unsustainable series of competitive advantages. 

Underlying the evangelical rhetoric is a pretty solid set of positive business and human values: a passion for failure/innovation; a thirst for learning; a bias for action; a taste for ambiguity; a contempt for the pompous and inflexible; a willingness to ‘shoot straight’; a belief in the natural curiosity and capability of people; ‘a hankering to be weird’; and a determination not to tolerate dullness and mediocrity.

Great experience! Great stuff! Where are you now Tom and what do you want? Send me a message -  I need to see what’s truly beyond ‘everything’ now! (ed.)

References to: The Tom Peters Seminar, Crazy Times Call For Crazy Organizations,Vintage Books, New York, May 1994.

Many more articles on Leading Change in The CEO Refresher Archives


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