US author, lecturer, and management consultant. He was a McKinsey and Company associate (1974–81) before he founded the Tom Peters Group. His best-seller In Search of Excellence (1982), co-authored with US management consultant Robert H Waterman, dissected successful corporate practices and became a business bible and the first ‘blockbuster’ business book. He has helped formulate competitive US management practices, and remains a ubiquitous and popular author, lecturer, and newspaper columnist.
With the publication of In Search of Excellence, which sold over 4 million copies, Peters became a business celebrity. The book was an attack on ‘by the numbers’ management, a style which Peters dated back to US engineer and management consultant Frederick Taylor's time and motion studies. Peters observed in his study of 43 US corporations that regardless of how different each company was, the successful or ‘excellent’ companies shared basic and generally overlooked principles of management in major areas; these included keeping in touch with customers, concern for people, innovation, and a ‘bias for action’.
In Liberation Management (1992) Peters focused on organizational structures, arguing that the hierarchical and bureaucratic structures of the past were being replaced by semi-permanent networks of small, autonomous, project-orientated teams. Holding up project work and the professional service firm as the future model organization, he claimed that it was possible in theory to run a global company with the simplicity of a small company. His other publications include A Passion For Excellence (1985), Thriving On Chaos (1987), The Circle of Innovation (1997), the three-volume The Brand You 50 (1999), Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age (2003), Talent (2005), Leadership (2005), and The New World of WOW (2008).
Peters was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He went to Cornell University, with a Navy scholarship after signing up for the Reserve Officers Training Corps, and graduated with a degree in engineering. He served on active duty in the US Navy in Vietnam and also in Washington (1966–70), and was subsequently a senior White House adviser on drug abuse (1973–74). He received an MBA and PhD from Stanford University before joining McKinsey and Company. Having become a partner in 1977 and principal practice leader for organizational effectiveness, he began to establish his reputation as a writer and speaker. In 1981 he left McKinsey to establish his own training and communications group.