Getting Things (That Matter) Done

In 2013 I wrote a paper titled "Getting Things (THAT MATTER) Done Against the Odds and in the Inky-black Shadow Cast by the Guardians of the Status Quo." It is based on my personal experience with big change projects such as the McKinsey project that led to In Search of Excellence, which "rebranded McKinsey" according to the book The Firm, and now accounts for a very sizeable share of McK's revenue. Blended in are my observations from dealing with big organizations and big change leaders over the last 35 or so years.

In any event, after my recent Auckland Business School activities, I decided to update and upgrade the 2013 piece. The result is attached.

Lemme know how you like it via twitter: @tom_peters

FYI: I've also tossed in, w/o updating, my 2013 paper "Presentation EXCELLENCE," which I'm sending on to my Auckland b-school mates as well.

(And Irritation)
(And Bewilderment)
(And Fervent Belief)
(And Prayer)

I can hardly complain about my book sales—from 1982 to the present. But there is one of my books that has, in my opinion, been wildly under-appreciated. Namely my 1999 The Professional Service Firm50. It was part of a 3-book series that we called "The Work Matters":

The Professional Service Firm50: Fifty Ways to Transform Your "Department" into a Professional Service Firm Whose Trademarks are Passion and Innovation!

The Project50: Fifty Ways to Transform Every "Task" into a Project That Matters!

The Brand You50: Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an "Employee" into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion!

The Brand You50 took off like a jackrabbit—and continues to be front-page news 16 years later. I am, of course, delighted.

But the real powerhouse, I believe, is The Professional Service Firm50. To cut to the chase, I believe that transforming pretty much any work group into something resembling a Professional Service Firm based 100% on growing intellectual capital—that's all there is—is a de facto singular path to adding corporate value and saving and enhancing the "worker's" security, and even job satisfaction. (At my most arrogant, I say, "What else is there to do?")

Also, as I said in 1999, the good news is we do not have to invent anything new. Though keeping up is nightmarishly difficult for everyone in 2015, the professional services format is tried-and-true and has been around for decades. (E.g., my former employer, McKinsey & Co. has been successfully at it since 1926—89 years; see the recent book The Firm for the more or less full story.)

So why did so few take to this notion? I have an answer: I have no bloody idea.

I got some superlative feedback, including a heroic tale from a senior Walmart exec. But by and large I was greeted by stony silence—i.e., disinterest. In fact, my Tom Peters Company colleagues in the UK created a training product around The PSF50, that worked very well with a handful of clients—but was dropped in response to disinterest in the marketplace as a whole.

To be sure, the transformation suggested is 10X times harder than it looks—e.g., a true PSF "culture" is a long way from most departmental charters. Just ask the leaders of the firms noted at the beginning of the presentation—e.g., Rolls-Royce aircraft engines, IBM, UPS—who have made "services added" (a surrogate for "PSF-ing," by my lights) transformation.

But even with success tales from the likes of IBM, the surface was barely scratched—and as a result 10s of millions of largely salvageable (in my opinion) white-collar jobs have gone bye-bye, and the trend is wildly accelerating as, to quote Marc Andreessen on the incursion of high-end artificial intelligence, "Software is eating the world." (And no, I am not so arrogant as to suggest The PSF50 could have saved 100,000,000 jobs; but I am arrogant enough to think such a methodology, especially if adopted a decade ago, could have made a positive contribution.)

At any rate, a recent event at the Auckland Business School launched me on a crusade to resurrect the "PSF" concept. You will see the first result here, a more or less fully annotated PowerPoint presentation titled "The (Imperative) PSF++ Solution." The ++ in the title refers to adding in the Project50 and Brand You50 ideas.

"Bottom line": PSF (Professional Service Firm) + BY (Brand You) + WP (WOW Projects) + E (Excellence) = UVA (Unassailable Value-Added) 

P-L-E-A-S-E take a look!
(AND ... let me know what you think via twitter: @tom_peters.)

Muffed Answer Leads to Rethink

After a recent presentation at the Auckland Business School, I was asked a pointed question—and flubbed the answer. I was asked if my emphasis on "people-development-first" amounted to keeping unnecessary workers on the payroll.

I said of course not—and stopped there.


But that stopping point (no "make work") has in fact been my starting point since 1999, when I published a 3-book series that we called "The Work Matters":

The Professional Service Firm50: Fifty Ways to Transform Your "Department" into a Professional Service Firm Whose Trademarks are Passion and Innovation!

The Project50: Fifty Ways to Transform Every "Task" into a Project That Matters!

The Brand You50: Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an "Employee" into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion!

At about the same time (actually Y2K), I had audaciously written in a Time magazine cover story, "I believe that ninety percent of white-collar jobs in the U.S. will be either destroyed or altered beyond recognition in the next 10 to 15 years."

That "absurd" prediction doesn't look so outrageous today. E.g., consider this headline from the 11 November 2014 Telegraph (UK), "Ten Million Jobs at Risk from Advancing Technology: Up to 35% of Britain's jobs will be eliminated by new computing and robotics technology over the next 20 years, say experts from Deloitte and Oxford University."

So the idea, then, in an oversimplified nutshell, is to avoid organizational and professional extinction—and in fact pursue growth—by vaulting up the value added chain. In my shorthand: Become a remarkable "brand you" performing 100% value-added "wow projects" in an organizational unit transformed into an innovative "professional service firm"—e.g., devoted to applying intellectual capital to the organization's products and services. (The overall "home" organization, per my model, seeks differentiation by becoming a de facto "collection of integrated professional service firms.")

As you will see in the attached presentation, "The PSF++ Solution," many are on this road. Consider this, for example, from a recent Economist story: "Rolls-Royce now earns more from tasks such as managing clients' overall procurement strategies and maintaining aerospace engines it sells than it does from making them."

There is more than one path to salvation in the face of exponential technology change—but whatever the path, it will in some form or other require adding new value through "soft services"—and transforming oneself into a distinguishable (specialist/brand you/growth-obsessed) professional.

Or so I believe. (Wish I'd said all that in the first place.)

Auckland Business School

Taking a break from his New Zealand "timeout on the beach" (TP: “Sorry! What else can I say to my VERY snowed-in New England neighbors and colleagues?”), Tom is spending two days at the Auckland Business School. Among other things, he is giving two formal lectures. The first—titled "Necessary Revolution: Re-Imagine EXCELLENCE!"—is to alums and community members. The second—"Leadership Excellence in the 'Real (Non-linear) World': The Mess Is the Message!"—is to students.

[Addition of February 22: Tom sent along a Master presentation for the Auckland Business School, a longer, all-inclusive PPT for the occasion. Download it here.]

Coppins Para Sea Anchors

Bill and Ryan Coppins with Tom

The Coppins Para Sea Anchors story is one of Tom's favorite Mittelstand models. Founded by W.A. Coppins in 1928, the company has a contract with no less than the U.S. Navy as well as the Norwegian Coastal Administration (Coast Guard). Being located close to Tom's winter haven, they invited him to come see the operation. Above are Bill, the director, grandson of the founder, and Ryan, his son, who oversees the manufacturing, all done on site in tiny Motueka, NZ.

Their story
An interview with Bill

Thought Leaders 2014

GDI/Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, a Swiss think tank, and MIT teamed up to create "Thought Leaders 2014: The Most Influential Thinkers," a just-released, algorithmically determined list of "Who is influencing what we think today? Whose ideas are influencing ours?" Engagement in the "blogosphere," "twittersphere," and Wikipedia page citations across languages were among the many variables considered.

Nos. 1 and 2 on the list are Pope Francis and Tim Berners-Lee. The top ten also includes Muhammad Yunus, Jane Goodall, and Mario Vargas Llosa—an eclectic list indeed. Tom says he was "astonished, amazed, gobsmacked," to be included among such notables.  He placed at No 32.

A few others: Garry Kasparov, No. 11; Stephen Hawking, No. 14; Tom's intelectual hero, Daniel Kahneman, No. 17; Steven Pinker and Jaron Lanier, right after Tom at Nos. 33 and 34; E.O. Wilson, No. 41; Tom's pal Guy Kawasaki at No. 43; Paul Krugman, No. 50; Michael Porter, No. 53; another of Tom's intellectual heroes, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, No. 65; Thomas Friedman, No. 72; Francis Fukuyama, No. 91. I'd say Tom's in good company!

Necessary Revolution: People & Profits Circa 2025

Kissy Russell, a neighbor of Tom's in his new South Dartmouth digs, originated a winter program called The Art of Dialogue. Tom is the first speaker this year—just 36 hours prior to his winter escape to Golden Bay, New Zealand. The title of his presentation is "Necessary Revolution: People & Profits Circa 2025." You'll find the PowerPoint presentation here, as well as the public description of the talk and two supplemental handouts Tom prepared for participants.

P.S. Tom sent this comment along. "OMG, a speech in Westport MA, a de facto Boston distant suburb—and it took place exactly coincident with the Patriots playoff game. I.e., I went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady, 30 miles from Gillette Stadium. I expected a turnout of three: the sponsor, the AV guy, and my wife. To my delight we managed a full house and then some—though I did observe a few surreptitiously checking their iPhones from time to time."

Moral Obligation/Art of Dialogue (PDF)
Human Asset Development (PPT)

An Effective “Brand You”

This, from a brief tweetstream ...

An effective "Brand You" is not a "marketing promise," it is a track record of demonstrated/sustained excellence.

An effective "Brand You" is marked by understatement, not overstatement.

An effective brand you is not about solos, it's about the power of your peer network.

An effective brand you is 10% vision, 90% execution.

An effective brand you has mud on her or his boots.

An effective brand you knows "sucking DOWN" is 10-100X more important than "sucking up."


Here are a couple of recent tweetstreams perhaps worth your time and attention ...


Many get the "Brand You" idea ass-backwards; they see it as selfish/solo/ego-driven. But effective brand you is skill and network driven; that is, it is by and large selfless.
An effective Brand You learns constantly and delivers stellar projects via teamwork excellence.
An effective Brand You gets better and better projects. How? Via peer reputation for having been an ardent learner and terrific teammate.
Fast-changing world. Re-tool or die (professionally).
NEVER forget: Brand You is 100% about COMMUNITY. You are as good—or bad—as your reputation with your peer network!

"Entrepreneurship" is not some weird, mystical thing. Nobel prize winner and father of micro-lending Muhammad Yunus says we are all entrepreneurs; it was the nature of work in the past—e.g., self-employment.
EVERY job, in companies of every size, provides growth/"entrepreneurial" opportunities—if your head is screwed on right!
Lauri Jutila: "Forget Human Resources Managers, introduce the idea of Human Being Developers."

"Good" old days/1960: Security = Sucking UP; boss-driven. "Bad" days/2014: Security = Sucking SIDEWAYS; network/peer reputation-driven.
Brand you: I acknowledge the enormous challenges of making it on your own circa 2014. But the notion that it's hell not to be cosseted for life by big-brother mega-corps is questionable.
For those decrying the loss of standard "careers": Was it really unmitigated joy to spend 40 years in one place sucking up to a series of numbnuts bosses?


Evaluations: Forced ranking systems utter unspeakable unmitigated bullshit. Planetary #1 de-motivators.

Labeling people as losers is likely to induce a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than a renaissance.

Twitter commentator: "Significant evidence shows that ratings by managers serve exactly the opposite purpose from what was intended. I.e., demotivates and leads to attrition."

The fabled Dr. Edwards Deming thought evaluations were the #1 bane of organizational life and productivity destroyer.

Twitter commentator: "See people as intelligent, treat them as intelligent & they will respond with intelligence."

Twitter commentator: "Purpose of 'ranking' should be evaluation of one's learning based on a well designed benchmark."

Any ranking is phony precision.

Twitter commentator: "The bell curve fails to ring the bell when it comes to fostering intrinsic motivation of people."

Twitter commentator: "Forced ranking allows us to be comfortable with not investing time with people as we should."

Twitter commentator: "Forced ranking seems still so entrenched. Are all alternative arguments so weak?"

I don't think alternative arguments are weak. I think it's mainly an unwillingness [on the part of managers] to invest the substantial time required to do it right!

Very serious people spent enormous amounts of time on evaluation of people at McKinsey. Evaluation is an art, not science.

My 1st managerial job circa 1966: Eight people working for me, spent half hour mindlessly filling out the evaluation forms—and havoc ensued.

If you truly understood the enormity of the impact of evaluations on people, you'd spend 10X more time on it.

Remember, clerk or middle manager, when you do an evaluation you are f-ing w/ the core of another's existence.

Jane Leonard: "I recommend that [see immediately above] be written at the top of each evaluation sheet. Then a similar line be included in the sign-off."

And the evaluator must initial the two (top & bottom) statements!!

[Available also as a PDF.]

Surprise, Transformation & Excellence through “Spontaneous Discovery”:
A Personal Saga

FYI, this is a revision of an antique—but arguably more relevant than ever (PDF version also available):

"Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You simply must ... Do things."—Ray Bradbury

"By indirection direction find."—Hamlet, II. I

"To be playful is to allow for unlimited possibility."—James Carse

"No one rises so high as he who knows not where he is going."—Oliver Cromwell

"What are [aircraft designer Burt] Rutan's management rules? He insists he doesn't have any. 'I don't like rules,' he says. 'Things are so easy to change if you don't write them down.' Rutan feels good management works in much the same way good aircraft design does: Instead of trying to figure out the best way to do something and sticking to it, just try out an approach and keep fixing it."—Eric Abrahamson & David Freedman, Chapter 8, "Messy Leadership," from A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder

"This is so simple it sounds stupid, but it is amazing how few oil people really understand that you only find oil if you drill wells. You may think you're finding it when you're drawing maps and studying logs, but you have to drill."John Masters, The Hunters, (Masters was a wildly successful Canadian Oil & Gas wildcatter.)

Summer 2009 was the summer of brush clearing.
And, it turned out, much more.

It started as simple exercise. After a day or two, scratches from head to toe, and enjoyment, I set myself a goal of clearing a little space to get a better view of one of the farm ponds. That revealed something else ... to my surprise.

At a casual dinner, I sat next to a landscaper, and we got to talking about our farm and my skills with clipper, saw, etc. In particular, she suggested that I do some clearing around a few of our big boulders. Intrigued, I set about clearing, on our main trail, around a couple of said boulders. I was again amazed at the result.

That in turn led to attacking some dense brush and brambles around some barely visible rocks that had always intrigued me—which led to "finding," in effect, a great place for a more or less "Zen garden," as we've taken to calling it.

Which led to ... more and more. And more.

To make a long story short:

(1) I now have a new hobby, and maybe, ye gads, my life's work for years to come. This winter I'll do a little, but I also plan to read up on outdoor spaces, Zen gardens, etc.; visit some rock gardens—spaces close by or amidst my travels; and, indeed, concoct a more or less plan (rough sketches) for next spring's activities—though I'm sure that what I do will move forward mostly by what I discover as I move forward. (What discovers itself may actually be a better way to put it—there's a "hidden hand" here.) As I'm beginning to see it, this is at least a 10-year project—maybe even a multi-generation project.

(2) I proceeded by trial and error and instinct, and each experiment led to/suggested another experiment (or 2 or 10) and to a greater understanding of potential—the "plan," though there was none, made itself. And it was far, far better (more ambitious, more interesting, more satisfying) than I would have imagined. In fact, the result to date bears little or no relationship to what I was thinking about at the start—a trivial self-designed chore may become the engine of my next decade; the "brushcutting project" is now leading Susan and me to view our entire property, and what it might represent, in a new light.

(3) I was able to do much more than I'd dreamed—overall, and project by project. "Systems thinking"? It would have killed the whole thing. (Don't get me started. Or do: Re-read the epigraphs at the top of this essay.)

(4) Is "everything connected to everything else"? Well, sure. But I had no idea how everything was connected to everything else until I began (thank you, Michael Schrage) "serious play." 

(5) Note (more of the same): I got a pacemaker for Christmas a couple of years ago; the #1 no-no is using a chain saw. (The magnetic field is fearsome.) Taking that warning a step farther, I decided to do this project entirely with hand tools. Of course that means more exercise—a good thing. But the "great wonder," again unexpected, is that the resultant slowness and quiet is the de facto engine of my entire spontaneous discovery process.

(6) Note: Some of you will have discovered my implicit debt to the economist-of-freedom: F.A. Hayek. His stunningly clear view of market capitalism as a "spontaneous discovery process" is my intellectual bedrock, my "context" for three decades in Silicon Valley, and now even for my recreational pursuits (which are, as noted, becoming so much more than that).

(7) To some extent, the fact that you are reading this is because I've been "on the map" since coauthoring In Search of Excellence in 1982. That book at its heart featured "Eight Basics of Excellence." One item obviously has to come first, and it'd be even "more first" if I updated the book today. Namely "A Bias For Action." In part in 1982 we were reacting to companies that were in deep trouble, in large measure due to losing touch with the reality of what they made and the "real people" (front-line employees) who made it. They had become too reliant on the Holy Strategic Plan. We pushed "Get out in the field, leave the plan behind, and get on with it ... right now."  The "get out in the field" imperative was couched in terms not only of that "bias for action," but also our favorite 4-letter prescription, stolen from a then vibrant Hewlett-Packard. Namely: MBWA. Managing By Wandering Around—get out of the office, leave "MBA thinking" behind—and feel your way around the Real World—i.e., do a little "spontaneous discovery." Which, of course, to repeat, is the heart of this little essay—and indeed the centerpiece and soul of my life's work to this day.



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