Cover image for The professional service firm50, or, Fifty ways to transform your "department" into a professional service firm whose trademarks are passion and innovation!
The professional service firm50, or, Fifty ways to transform your "department" into a professional service firm whose trademarks are passion and innovation!
Peters, Thomas J.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 228 pages ; 18 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD9980.5 .P398 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Offers advice on selecting clients, organizing projects, reviewing current work, attracting the best employees, and creating effective marketing.

Author Notes

Tom Peters, public speaker and author, graduated from Cornell University and received a M.B.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He has also received honorary doctorates from the University of San Francisco and Rhodes College.

He was in the U. S. Navy during Vietnam and later served as a senior White House drug abuse advisor (1973-74). He worked for McKinsey & Company from 1974 to 1981. He holds about 75 seminars a year and has created and starred in a series of corporate training films.

He is the co-author of In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies, which was a New York Times bestseller for three years. This book and subsequent titles have become bestsellers in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Peters contributes to several newspapers and journals, including writing a bimonthly column for Forbes ASAP.

(Bowker Author Biography)



The White Collar Revolution will envelop 90+ percent of us. And quickly. The commonplace, if traumatic, changes that came to the factory, the distribution center, and the London docks are now racing toward the relatively unscathed world of "purchasing," "finance," "HR," "IT," etc. Of course, we had "re-engineering" and "downsizing" in the nineties. But truth is, work in finance today looks about the way it did decades ago. We pass "papers" -- electronically, to be sure -- but the topics are about the same. And the processing delays are maddening as ever. As are the petty tyrants who oversee the processes. (Witness Dilbert's monumental popularity; the comic strip depicts my dad's day in the Credit and Collections Dept. at the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company, circa 1955, as accurately as it captures white collar world at the millennium's turn.) But -- I repeat -- all that is about to change. So-called Enterprise Resource Planning systems from SAP, PeopleSoft, Baan, et al. will hit high gear within the next decade. Clumsy knowledge management and knowledge-sharing systems will gather a full head of steam . . . or, should I say, a light-speed flow of bits. Those of us in jeopardy -- 90+ percent, don't forget! -- must invent a new game. A hot game that transforms "accounting" from the butt of a million jokes about "useless overhead," "purposeful obfuscators," and "petty bureaucrats" to the . . . ta da . . . scintillating center of value added through knowledge capital accumulation. Sound too grand for you? Fine. But . . . then . . . what's the (your) alternative? An Answer/T-h-e Answer? I contend there is an alternative, an answer even. And that is -- and long has been -- right under our collective noses. To wit: the "real" Professional Service Firm, or PSF. A la McKinsey & Co., Chiat/Day, Arthur Andersen. And Andersen Consulting. IDEO. And EDS. Pricewaterhouse -- Coopers. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. Etc. These firms can be tiny . . . or huge. (EDS employs well over 100,000 people.) But regardless of size, they perform pure intellectually based services, own damn little in the way of hard assets, and sometimes deposit billions of $$$$ on the bottom line. They do Good Work. Valuable Work. And, often, Important Work. Moreover, Life in a PSF is about as far a cry from DilbertDrones in DrearyVille (a.k.a. "Departments") as one can imagine. So why have we left these firms out in the cold for so long? Why haven't we studied them? (We haven't. Period.) I think there is an answer. In short: We didn't take them seriously! When I joined McKinsey & Co. in 1974, the consultants . . . and lawyers . . . and accountants and ad agency denizens were considered the bloodsuckers, the parasites living off the sweat of real men's -- USW, UMW, and UAW members' -- brows. And then a funny thing happened. We woke up one morning and discovered . . . we'd won! The economy had taken a 180-degree turn. Bill Gates was the richest man in the world . . . and the "soft guys," the "service guys," ruled. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley . . . to a revived (branding uber Alles!) Madison Avenue. And so we started jawing about "virtual organizations" and "knowledge capital accumulation." Exotic, new stuff. And we imagined that we had to invent a brand-new wheel. Not so! I'll be the first to acknowledge that there are crappy professional service firms . . . just as there are incompetent retailers and second basemen who bat .200. But the pick of the litter -- just as with retailing -- have a lot to teach us. Teach us about, say, scintillating projects that add value. I.e.: Work that Matters! THE "Model" Our model is simple. And it will be expanded upon in this book and others in this 50List series. To wit: Point-of-impact for this millennial meteor: the white collar worker (a.k.a.: you, me!). Those who survive -- on or off a corporate payroll -- will jettison (almost) everything they've learned and (1) adopt the attributes/attitudes of a PSF/Professional Service Firm. (The subject of this book.) They will behave as (2) de facto (if not yet de jure) independent contractors, or what I call Brand Yous. (Please see the Brand You50.) I.e., survivors will "be" a product . . . and exhibit clear-cut distinction at . . . s- o-m- e-t-h-i-n-g. And (3) the bottom line or base element for the PSF, Brand You, and the White Collar Revolution: the Project. (Please see the Project50.) Exciting "Bottom Line" So that's the crux of the story! Liberation! Transforming work! Performing Work that Matters! Becoming Brand You! Living in a scintillating Professional Service Firm . . . a Department that Matters! We think that this logical case for transforming work is airtight. So join us on this . . . Adventure Toward Work that WOWs!: Brief User's Guide What follows is a portrait. A portrait of a "Department" transforming itself into a full-fledged Professional Service Firm. The aspirations are grand. The challenges are enormous. Even if the logic rings true and the heart is willing, can you expect to pull off "all this stuff" (among other things, some 200 "To Do's")? No! What you can do: *        Treat this as the portrait it is. Imagine a Different World for your "Dept." Talk with colleagues about the portrait that does emerge . . . and your collective aspirations. (We urge you to dream!) DOES THIS MAKE SENSE? THE BASIC ARGUMENT? THE PARTICULARS? *        Go through the Main List of 50+ items and select, using some ranking scheme, 10 that make the most sense for you and your colleagues. (That are most important . . . and that are surprising/provocative.) Discuss the 10. *        Select a couple of action steps (To Do's) from each of the 10 selected items. Find a Volunteer Champion, and consider an action plan for going after each one. *        Alternatively, assign priorities to each of the seven sections in the book. Choose a Discussion Leader for each section. Once every two weeks, say, schedule a session to review a selected section; perhaps invite a relevant outsider to talk about the content. Consider practical Next Steps at the end of each discussion session. There are 100 other ways to skin this cat. My point: We don't expect you to bite off the entire challenge in one crunchy chomp. We do hope you'll consider some scheme -- of your choosing -- for walking through the content in a measured way. Who Is This Book For? The idea of "PSF 50": Turning a "Dept." into a full-fledged, WOW-Project-obsessed Professional Service Firm. So . . . does that mean this is a book for bosses? Yes. And no. Yes:The key idea is that the HR Dept. head is now . . . Managing Partner, HR Inc. No: We will all -- survivors! -- inhabit PSFs. We all must learn the ways of these exceptional institutions, and thence create mini-PSFs in every setting we inhabit. The PSF "mindset" is as appropriate/important to the neophyte 23-year-old professional as it is to that Department Head, age 43. Excerpted from The Professional Service Firm50 (Reinventing Work): Fifty Ways to Transform Your "Department" into a Professional Service Firm Whose Trademarks Are Passion and Innovation! by Tom Peters All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Inexorable "PSF" Logicp. 3
I. PSF = Inc. + Clients + Projects!
1. Think Inc.p. 13
1a. Commit "Cool"p. 16
2. Think Client. Periodp. 19
3. Select Clients very carefullyp. 23
3a. Seek out Clients who are leadersp. 26
3b. F-i-r-e Clients ... upon occasionp. 27
4. Turn every "task" into a Projectp. 32
4a. The Work Matters!p. 35
5. Become a Catalyst for Revolutionp. 38
II. Portfolio Quality!
6. Visit every clientp. 41
7. Create an immodest Current Projects Listp. 44
8. You are a Venture Capitalistp. 48
9. Conduct a weekly--or a more frequent--formal Current Projects Reviewp. 51
9a. Words ... matterp. 53
III. Impact!
10. Transform every "job" into a ... WOW! Projectp. 56
11. Never ever compromise your Identityp. 59
12. Pursue ... P-A-S-S-I-O-Np. 62
13. Measure: Did we make an impact?p. 65
14. Tom's Epithet No. 1: "Thoroughly Professional ... But Not Provocative"p. 67
15. L-E-A-D Your Client!p. 70
16. Another-flavor-of WOW: Politicsp. 73
17. PSF success boils down to ... the fine art of balancep. 77
18. Accounting (etc.) is a performing artp. 80
19. Speaking of accounting ... remember the bottom line: "Business-ing"p. 82
20. Got any quirky projects on the list?p. 84
21. Think ... Legacyp. 88
22. Pitch in ... or bail out!p. 91
22a. Practice serial monogamyp. 94
23. PSFs need Vision Statements!p. 96
23a. We help people!p. 100
IV. Live with 'Em!
24. Make Clients an integral part of every project teamp. 105
24a. Cohabit with the Client!p. 108
24b. Turn the Client into an expert!p. 110
24c. Engage Clients in a measured "risk progression" processp. 112
25. Insist that Clients submit a formal evaluation of "your people" (and "their people") at the end of each projectp. 116
25a. Think Externalp. 118
26. Client-centric = PSF Imperativep. 121
27. Bring in wild and woolly outsiders. E-x-p-a-n-d the boxp. 123
V. A Culture of Urgency!
28. Create a "sense of urgency"/"excitement"/"vibrancy"/"buzz"p. 127
29. Hot Teams thrive in Hot Spacesp. 132
30. Celebrate ... constantly!p. 134
30a. Projects-worth-doing are bumpyp. 137
30b. You need a clown!p. 141
31. Love thy "support staff"p. 143
32. A rabid scheduler is a must!p. 146
32a. We're in this for the money!p. 148
33. Pay attention to the "hard stuff" ... e.g.: Methodologyp. 150
34. Embrace marketingp. 156
VI. Knowledge-Is-Us!
35. Become a Research and Development evangelistp. 160
35a. Devote a sizable share of effort/revenues to Knowledge Developmentp. 163
36. Turn your current portfolio of projects into a ... Research and Development playground/gold minep. 167
37. Think ... Designp. 170
38. Evaluate the possible bases of PSF competitive advantagep. 174
VII. Talent!
39. Become a ... Connoisseur of Talentp. 177
39a. We want to be a Magnet for Talentp. 185
40. Cherish instability! Mix up teams!p. 188
40a. Mix redux: Encourage turnover!p. 190
41. Demand that every PSF member be known for ... somethingp. 192
41a. Admiration beats affectionp. 196
42. Champion passion. Champion perfectionp. 198
43. Create stories/mythology around "project winners"p. 200
44. T-R-A-I-N. Teach the "Professional Service Firm Basics" ... with a vengeancep. 202
45. Provide "project management-leadership" opportunities ... ASAPp. 205
46. Cherish great listening skillsp. 210
47. Geeks--the antisocial, masterful diggers-of-obscure-facts--should be adored!p. 213
48. Challenge! Challenge! Challenge!p. 215
VIII. It's Ours!
49. Think ... Dream ... Act: Wow! Beauty! Impact! Distinction!p. 218
50. We own this place!p. 219
The Movementp. 223
Reading Suggestionsp. 225
Acknowledgmentsp. 227