Tom Peters

Tom Peters is a managerial guru. He write lots of books that, until recently, I thought of as ManagerStuff?. But a time comes, at least it came to me, when you realise that the only way to create great things is to focus, at least a little bit, on the managerial side of the universe. And what a surprise. The questions we face, on methodologies, on design tools, on how much to prototype and when, are all faced by other industries.

"Well Duh" you say.

"Duh" I agree. But, to a huge extent, it is such an obvious Duh that we often don't think of it.

For example. RichardGabriel wrote an essay. "Money Through Innovation Reconsidered." Which, when I read it, I thought "Hmmm. Yes. Quite probably right." And at the end, he wrote "These ideas on innovation might seem odd..." And yup. They did. But nope. They weren't. They're only odd if you're a computer programmer or an engineer who's missed what the managerial gurus have been saying for the past 15 years.

It's weird. I backed into Peters's books by picking up a cut-rate copy of PursuitOfWow. An interesting book, one that really resonated with me as I contemplated a design task for a product I no longer am enchanted by (it's sort of slid into the same old same old stage). And there it was-- a book which, at least from the cursory examination I gave it in the store, seemed to be talking about my misgivings.

And now I'm reading an earlier book, PassionForExcellence, and there's a lot in it that amazes me. Because it's almost as if he's writing about our industry. Both when he's talking about the importance of customer contacts and sales organizations. What products do I recommend for purchases? The ones where tech support returns my calls, answers my questions, treats me as if I mattered. Most software companies don't focus on this stuff and it's clear that they haven't read Peters's screeds on it.

And when he's talking about Innovation (section 3)? Well, it reminded me of the ongoing questions about CASE tools, about requirements documents and formal specifications. About the strange things I have seen while surfing the net (in particular, from a three-letter institute somewhere in the 13 colonies). About the role prototypes should pay in the software development process. And, in particular, it reminded me of RichardGabriel's essay (mentioned above).

Why am I surprised? Why did it take a chance purchase (PursuitOfWow was $.50) for me to get my nose rubbed in the non-uniqueness of the software industry? Why do I think we could all profit from reading some more managerial books? And why do I think that wandering around my company urging them on developers is likely to be futile? -- WilliamGrosso

Tried urging them on managers? They'll be surprized. -- MartineDevos

I had an experience similar to Grosso's, in which I started reading Tom Peters and realized he had a total application to the way that English departments at Universities are managed, which is almost always poorly.

Many of the concerns that Peters brings up, on a wider basis, are similar to ethical and social issues raised by literary theory, chaos theory, and other ethereal academic discourses. The diference being that Tom Peters has packaged it for the real world. Because most English faculty have distanced themselves from the world of business, they don't pay much attention to Peters. Also, it's institutionally easier for English faculty to not be total *sses, because they don't have the exact same productivity/profit pressures. Why then are they so petty and territorial? SturgeonsLaw applies here: 90 percent of everything is crap, including management.

Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low. --Wallace Sayre
I found his ThrivingOnChaos to be his masterpiece, and his writing has gone downhill since then. Look at it and say what you think. I find it has more, deep and serious, material than I can incorporate at any one time, but it is brilliantly organized (unlike PursuitOfWow, which I found, comparatively, a random assortment of random thoughts). --AlistairCockburn

His first three books are all very good:

"They're only odd if you're a computer programmer or an engineer who's missed what the managerial gurus have been saying for the past 15 years"

More like the past 50 years. Go back and read "The Practice of Management" (1954) by PeterDrucker ISBN 0887306136 . Parts of it still sound radical.

Me (arriving to interview for an awesome gig): You're the Director of First Impressions, right?

Receptionist: Why yes. You read the plaque.

She has a title plaque on her counter that says Director of First Impressions on it.

Two of my interviewers arrive.

Me: You guys must be really into TomPeters, huh?

All: Who?

That's the legacy. TomPeters's early sermons have done their job well. The ideas are out on the grapevine, even far beyond those who know who started them.


CategoryAuthor | JanCarlzon

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