How Excellence Was Born! excellence

Tom Peters didn’t exactly give birth to excellence, but he did establish the idea that companies can achieve excellence under the inspiration of a management guru—like himself.

It all began in the spring of 1978. John Larson of McKinsey’s San Francisco office was set to give a presentation to a client. But his computer crashed and took with it his notes. He turned to another consultant, Tom Peters, to throw together a presentation that would satisfy the client.

Peters had just returned from traveling the world to compile research on best practices in business. Up until then, his research had been collecting dust after he had presented it to the McKinsey powers that be. With an opportunity to present his findings again, Peters gathered his data. In search of a sexy title to give his presentation, Peters came up with “Excellence.” It was a hit.

Eventually, Peters edited the material into a manuscript. Continuing with the idea of excellence, he titled the book, The Secrets of Excellence. But the title didn’t fly with the McKinsey folks, who feared that clients would think the company was selling the secrets of client operations. In 1982, Peters and co-author Robert Waterman renamed it the more politically astute In Search of Excellence. And thus was excellence born.

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