Category: FSW Examples

What did you do in the Great Recession, Mummy/Daddy?

Everyone agrees that it will be innovators, entrepreneurs and people who don’t follow the crowd that will play a key role in getting the world back onto an even keel after this greatest of recessions. Folks who follow Tom Peters and TPC tend to be a feisty lot, who aren’t easily daunted by adversity, and we’d expect them to be at the forefront of the global recovery.

Are you one of these trail blazers? Are you doing your bit to cope with or even thrive in these times of austerity? We’re looking for inspiring stories of the way people are finding innovative ways to do business in a period of almost permanent recession. How do you keep yourself and others motivated and focused?

We want to start a collection of examples of how people like you are creating the future shape of work . Send us your story and we’ll publish our favourites on this blog. Here are a couple of examples to get you started:

Sam Mogannam of Bite Rite Markets whose quirky approach gets sales per square foot that are as good as an Apple store.

Jeff Charney, on how to keep a work culture fresh.

We’d love to hear from you.

After the Party was over

For completeness, I have added this final blog in my series on the London 2012  Olympics. It was originally published on

Now that the first Olympic 2012 Party in London is over (Paralympics starts on 29th August!) we Brits are all asking ourselves whether we are going to get the legacy we had hoped for. It seems to me that there is a great deal too much focus on whether we can anticipate any profits from our investment. Here are just a few examples of what I think we will gain from the investment:

1. Looking at the tangibles we are inheriting, we have paid a high price for the regeneration of the area where the new Olympic park was built, but a superb job has been done. A previously derelict and neglected area has transformed with iconic venues, extensive parkland and accommodation that will become 2800 new homes for local people.

There is still debate about whether the athletics stadium will become a white elephant, as we are still arguing about who will take it over after the Games, but the velodrome and aquatic centre look likely to become fabulous resources for everyone to enjoy.
2. A second aspect of the legacy must be the image of the UK that the world got to see. Despite worries about whether we were ready for the Games, everything went to plan, finished early and kept within budget (albeit revised upwards!).

We did get a little edgy when members of our military were called in at the last minute to substitute for the shortfall of security recruits, but it turned out to be a real asset to have those guys around the park. They certainly made me feel more secure, that’s for sure!

Even the doom and gloom around traffic chaos came to nothing. Maybe we were nudged into lower expectations, or persuaded to behave differently, but the much-heralded gridlock never materialised.

3. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were a chance to showcase the British character and talents. I’ve  seen them variously described as marvellous, ambitious and slightly bonkers but then, I can’t think of better words to describe our nation. I thought the most magical aspect was Thomas Heatherwick’s beautiful Olympic Flame with its 204 copper petals all coming together to form a united cauldron of light. What a brilliant combination of function and beauty it was, just like the best of British innovation over the years;)

4. And what of the people of the UK – how did we acquit ourselves? We got a sense of the latent enthusiasm that was about to explode across the country with the Torch Relay. This covered 8,000 miles across the UK over the 70 days before the Games started, involving 8,000 individuals as Torch Bearers, and an estimated audience of 13 million spectators. It was a magnificent welcome to London for the Games. By the time the various road races got going, the crowds had got into the swing of turning up and cheering, and how they cheered!
The 80,000 volunteers that were recruited as so called Games Makers have rightly received universal acclaim as representatives of this country. As exemplars of engagement and selfless service, they came to embody the spirit of the Games. How impressive is it that we are capable of rallying a crowd of keen and willing contributors when there is a cause that matters to them. There must be something more we can do with that latent energy in future.
5. Finally, the motto of the Games was Inspire A Generation, and it’s unimaginable to me that we won’t achieve this. There were stellar performances from so many dedicated Olympians; Michael Phelps in the swimming, Mo Farah in the long distance running, Usain Bolt in the sprinting, the list goes on and on. Across 26 completely different sports, athletes excelled themselves and showed what can be done by adding pure, hard graft to their talent. The team of athletes representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland outclassed themselves, and smashed their own medals target of 48, winning 65 in the end. I know we had the home advantage, but if that means we get a new generation with sporting ambitions ignited, that will indeed be a legacy to treasure.
So what of those that complain about the bottom line? It has cost a fortune, they say, and so far, no-one can make the financial case for the Games. In fact some say it has cost lost revenue. But for me that misses the point. We in TPC define Excellence as being a combination of systems plus passion, tangibles and intangibles. My money is on the intangibles having a massive impact on our country; confidence, ambition, community spirit and optimism may all be hard to measure, but we’ve shown we can use them to good effect to stage these Olympics. Let’s hang onto them and use them to build a stronger country for the future.

Going for Gold

The Olympics are a fantastic arena to observe what Excellence looks like, but just as importantly to remind ourselves about the price that has to be paid by anyone that aspires to achieve it.

Today, the GB team got their first team gold medal in the women’s rowing pairs with Helen Glover and Heather Stanning showing their cool confidence right from the off. Their partnership is remarkable, – Helen only took up rowing four years ago and they have been rowing together for merely two years. One story I heard was that they were paired up as the least successful members of the squad – an afterthought, perhaps, or clutching at straws? Well, today’s evidence proves it was an inspired decision. It just goes to show what the right combination of talents, with the right coaching of course, can achieve.

The consistent story behind all the medal winners is their dedication to the development of their talents.  As neuroscientist Daniel Levitan has researched, “it comes down to that in order to be a world-class expert in anything, be it audiology, drama, music, art, gymnastics, whatever, one needs to have a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice.” This of course explains why it is that nations which identify and then hot-house promising youngsters do so well. I’m thinking here of the Chinese divers that our UK medal-hopeful, Tom Daley, finds such formidable competition; whilst he is fitting in his school studies with his four hours a day training, the impression is that his Chinese opponents simply practice diving all day.

But surely it’s not just down to natural aptitude and hard work? In TPC our formula for producing Excellence is that it takes a combination of Systems plus Passion. The training and coaching fits on the Systems side of this equation, but the energy to keep going definitely fits on the Passion side! For every winner there are many losers who have to find the will to get back on the treadmill in search of their moment of glory. The vast majority will never make it and the ones that do are able to remain undaunted by ‘failure‘ on the way. They say that success breeds success, but what about failure? Is this resilience a quality that can be learned and developed, or is it something you are born with?

Good luck to all the Olympic athletes, successful or otherwise. We wish you the fortitude to stick with your search for Excellence. It’s inspiring to us all.

Lessons in Excellence from the Olympics

Just over 3 days left now until the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. The last rehearsal for the ceremony took place last night, and by all accounts went well, with all who attended (60,000 folks!) being sworn to secrecy. One chap who posted a photo onto Twitter obviously thought better of this breach of trust and took it down pretty quickly. One blogger  (@JillLawless) describes it as “splendidly British and magnificently bonkers“, whilst another (@petehendrick) declares “If you’ve got plans Friday night, cancel them. Opening Ceremony out of this world.” So there you have it! I shall be watching, how about you?

Since this is a Future Shape of the Winner blog, I will be thinking about which of the features of our model we can see in action during the course of the Olympics and whether there is any learning for the rest of us mere mortals!


To start at the very beginning, the most obvious analogy is the pure Talent that is on show at the Games. Every single Olympian or Paralympian athlete  is a textbook example of the core element of an Excellent organisation – an individual who is determined to be a master at their own craft. (By the way,that’s our definition of Talent) It seems so tough that there can only be one winner in every competition, which inevitably means there will be far more ‘losers’ than ‘winners’. But having the chance of glory is clearly a really powerful incentive to thousands of would-be gold medal winners.

The drive to achieve Personal Best Performance that matters so much in sporting circles gives those of us in business something to reflect on about our own capabilities. Do we each know what our own current Personal Best is or are we stuck in a rut of sameness or mediocrity? And if we do have a sense of our current best, have we got a plan to better it?

As leaders, how do we manage to set up a situation at work where people will want to strive to be as good as they can be? What is our equivalent of setting Olympic Goals?


Whenever there is a big prize to be won, there is always the chance that less scrupulous characters will find ways to create advantage for themselves.  I think that sport has done a pretty good job of making the disincentives for the use of performance enhancing drugs outweigh the benefits and have put in place some really reliable processes that check that people are complying. Doubtless there will be folks that are still trying to circumvent these rules, but it is harder and harder to make it pay! In FSW, this is an example of  Performance characteristic 17 in our Excellence Audit; Our measures drive truly professional behaviors in our team and the right partnership behaviors with clients, customers, and suppliers.

When you examine some of the greedy and selfish behaviour amongst our business people and politicians that we’ve seen in the last few years I do question the balance of measures that we find in so many organisations. Maybe we can learn some lessons about the surveillance and punishment we see in sport for ethical misdemeanours?


I’m not much enjoying the rearrangements that are being made in London to facilitate the movement of traffic during the Olympics. Unfortunately, I have three rehearsals this week at the BBC in Maida Vale (NW of the city) and my journey from the east normally takes me through the centre. Not this week, I can assure you! On my last two trips, I had to allow 2.5 hours and 1.75 hours for a journey that is a mere 25 miles. Oh dear;-(  Then again, it is just for 3 weeks!

Rock On!!

Thursday 17th November was a big day for our clients, Virgin Money. By an astonishing quirk of fate, the opening of the first two of their new concept Lounges (Edinburgh and Norwich) coincided with the announcement by the chancellor, George Osborne, that the Northern Rock has been sold to Virgin Money.

This is a huge milestone for VM and one towards which they have been working for several years. They are determined to cause a stir in the world of banking – even though some in the industry are still describing their status as a minnow. If being 10th largest bank with 4 million customers makes you a minnow, it gives you some idea of the stranglehold that the big banks have on the market. Mind you, being smaller has never bothered Virgin businesses in the past – when VM first launched their internet based PEPS business  back in 1995, existing players in their market saw them as irritants – mosquitoes if you like!! And we all know how much trouble mosquitoes can cause, don’t we?!

Over the past 6 months Tom Peters Company has been running events for all existing staff to help them to see their part in building the bank of the future. The commitment in time and money to run these events was extraordinary, given the manic level of activity that was going on in the business. But Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the Chief Executive, has always set great store by keeping everyone involved – the events are designed both to communicate but also to give everyone the chance to have a say.

Virgin Money Edinburgh Lounge, November 2011

And as for these lounges – what on earth are they about? The answer is that they are all about relationships and definitely not about transacting or selling. The return on investment may be very difficult to quantify, but the stir they are likely to create may well be just what’s required in these times of financial stalemate.

It’s going to be an exciting time for VM – wish them luck!!



What did you do this Summer?

Some people might think of Summer as a time to relax and unwind?? Not us!! Having detected a distinct upturn in the tone of many of the conversations we had been having with clients about the future,  we decided to use our annual Summer Research project to find out more. We hoped this group of Tom Peters Company aficionados could shed some light on the most pressing business improvement challenges at this particular time. Sorry if that makes us sound a bit sad, but we’ve had a fantastic time studying the responses!

We wanted to find out how has the experience of coming through the recession influenced people’s development concerns and priorities. Are there any common themes emerging now that might be of interest more generally to leaders as they make plans for their own future success and for the future success of their business?

This selection of people were offered one-off free access to the Excellence Audit in return for structured information from them on their current priorities for business improvement. 143 willing souls from 29 different countries spread across six continents actually submitted Excellence Audit surveys.

Completing an Excellence Audit enabled respondents to identify their most urgent priorities areas for improvement. As expected, each respondent defined “future excellence” in their organisation in their own unique way. But looking across the whole group of 143 respondents, the Excellence Audit identified a substantial 22% “Now” to “Future” improvement requirement in the coming year, with areas of need evenly distributed across our Future Shape of the Winner business excellence model.

One of our participants, a Director of Community Regeneration in Europe summed up the challenge ahead this way:

‘To survive and thrive, organisations will need leaders who have the capacity to organise resources in a way that allows them to deliver and dream simultaneously.”


The main business improvement focus areas selected by all the survey groups were Talent Leadership, (Customer) Experience, Architecture and Execution. Within these focus areas, the biggest priorities for immediate improvement action were:

  • leaders investing more of their time finding, deploying, encouraging, and protecting champions of change, and
  • businesses exploiting the latest IT and web based systems; to deliver products and services more efficiently: to provide a more personalised service; to ensure all relevant knowledge and management information is accessible at every desk/laptop, and to improve business processes and methodologies.

Examining the different survey subgroups for functional or geographical differences, the main conclusion is that those with Manager positions are the most anxious group to get going with improvement action. Managers in North America give the heaviest priority to getting on with improvements to the business Architecture and Execution, whereas Western European Managers show the highest anxiety to start to address their Talent Leadership responsibilities

In a nutshell, it’s a case of finding the right combination of  “systems plus passion leading to excellence!”  In the full report, we explain our findings in more detail, and suggest an action agenda for anyone interested in getting active around this research. If you would like a copy of the full report, please email us on

We’d love to hear how are things looking for you and your team or your clients? What is your sense of what you should be focusing on for the future?