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Has Tom Peters lost the plot? A timely review of a celebrated management guru

David Collins (Department of Accounting, Finance and Management, Essex Management Centre, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 23 May 2008

Abstract

Purpose

This paper has been timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the publication of In Search of Excellence. Observing this anniversary, the paper aims to offer a critical review of the works of Tom Peters – a man vaunted as the guru of management. Reviewers have observed that Tom Peters' narratives of business build and depend upon organizational stories to achieve their effects. Recognising that tales of the organization play an important role in sensemaking and sensegiving endeavours, this paper reviews Peters' organizational storytelling in the light of critical academic reflection in this arena.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper analyses the eight key works on management produced by Tom Peters between 1982 and 2003 from a storytelling perspective. Building upon Yiannis Gabriel's account of the essence of the poetic tale, the paper compiles a catalogue of Tom Peters' storywork.

Findings

On the strength of the cataloguing exercise, the paper charts a decline in this guru's storytelling; the predominance of certain story types; Peters' transmutation from narrator for, to hero of, the business world.

Originality/value

While acknowledging the need for further research and analysis, the paper suggests that the quantitative and qualitative changes evident in Peters' storywork catalogue suggest that this guru's connection to the world of business has become increasingly remote and unproductive. Accordingly, this review questions Peters' status as an organizational storyteller/organizational “sensegiver”, and so, questions his future prospects as a guru.

Keywords

Citation

Collins, D. (2008), "Has Tom Peters lost the plot? A timely review of a celebrated management guru", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 315-334. https://doi.org/10.1108/09534810810874804

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited