Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

What will it take to succeed in this economy?

I am a huge fan of Tom Peters. Love his books, ideas, and rants. I have met Tom on several occasions and really enjoy his quick wit, wry sense of humor and passion for business excellence. This is an article from Richard King, the director of the Tom Peters consultancy in UK, that was just posted on Tom’s site — I think he has some strong ideas for what it will take to weather the upcoming business challenges. Worth taking five minutes to read…

 Tom Peters Times–June 2008 
Entering a New Era of Talent I was recently reminded of a Tom Peters video that was hot when I first met him. It was provocatively titled Recession as Opportunity: Smart Moves in Tough Timesand catalogued six recession-beating strategies for the early 1990s. Invest in service and quality improvement was the main, and counterintuitive, advice from Tom for those troubled times. Sadly, by my observation, few people took it, and we entered a management dark age of right-sizing and business process re-engineering.But the times did move on, and we have entered the much-heralded era of the knowledge worker, intellectually at least. We have accepted that the best way to beat our competition is by winning the war for talent, and we know that it is increasingly becoming a Brand You world. We enjoy the services of the best-educated management cadre that ever walked the earth. So, we are on course for a successful business future. Right?

I bet most of us would have answered “yes” until the earliest rumblings of the coming credit crunch began to be heard last summer. To pick out three particularly worrying announcements from recent news, U.S. unemployment suddenly jumped 0.5% to 5.5% in May and Ford Motor and UK insurance giant Norwich Union announced a round of savage white collar job cuts. The context is getting tougher for all of us, and our expensive Western workers are again paying for our complacency with their jobs.

I remain convinced that management thinking on the era of talent is sound. Application and execution are quite another matter! Sure, there is much more flexibility in terms and conditions of employment out there: more people are working as freelancers, more people are taking gap years and career breaks, more people are sharing jobs and working flexible hours, hardly anyone goes to work “suited and booted” these days, etc.

I can also see that there is a lot of self-publicity going on, on networking websites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and in the myriad blogs burgeoning on the Web. People seem to love advertising a tailored version of themselves to the world, and they are keen to post their opinions on just about anything for widespread scrutiny and comment.

People have eagerly grasped the personal and lifestyle opportunities of the talent era, but I don’t often see that same enthusiasm for the other side of the coin, the task of staying in shape, in terms of competency and capability, for ever more demanding requirements at work. Too often, under-performance in this respect is blamed on someone else’s failure, be it a poor line manager, the human resources department (heaven forbid), or the company at large. The required degree of personal commitment to stay on top in the talent era is all too often missing. That’s my current experience, anyway.

So, is there anything that’s good about this current economic downturn? Well, experience teaches us that facing up to a crisis is one of the few things that will jolt us human beings into overcoming our strong preference for doing what is comfortable and familiar, even if we know it is not good for us!

Maybe in these current tough times we’ll see more people making smart moves of their own. Maybe we’ll start to see a shift in mindset and a marked increase in the responsibility people take for their own personal performance and development. That step-change in engagement at work would herald a new era of talent, in the true meaning of the term.

Richard King
Managing Partner, TPC!UK

To read more on this and other grat ideas on the Tom Peters site click HERE



  1. John,

    I think Richard is right on here. Times like these are certainly tough, but are also great motivation for taking a look at where time, energy, and money are best spent. Our team has found that the most successful AND satisfied individuals are always thinking about their priorities. Tough times can create a more satisfied life, I think – IF one uses the motivation productively (instead of simply complaining about how things “used to be”).

    Nice post.