From excellence, to liberation, to Wow!

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The eight dominant characteristics of excellent companies identified by Tom Peters and his In Search of Excellence co-author (and McKinsey colleague) Robert Waterman are: A bias to action; Close to the customer; Autonomy and entrepreneurship; Productivity through people; Hands-on, values driven; Stick to the knitting; Simple form, lean staff; Simultaneous loose-tight properties.

On the tenth anniversary of the publication of Excellence, Peters reflected on what he had learned and came up with: Unintended consequences outnumber intended consequences; Certainty is a delusion; Fiction beats non-fiction; Success begets failure; Democracy and markets are untidy, but effective; Try it; Vermont farmers have a lot to teach us; Lighten up; Neckties are diabolical; Smile if it kills you; Each day is a miracle; Beware true believers; Reject simple explanations.

In between he had changed the management consultancy business. Though some are critical of the lack of deep intellectual content, he has certainly made an impact. Today's "leaner, flatter" companies, concentrating on their "core competencies" owe a lot to his (and Waterman's) influence.

He also won a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's highest- paid management consultant, with earnings of $6.4m a year. In Search of Excellence was the first business book to top the New York Times bestseller list and sold six million copies; the follow-up, A Passion for Excellence, was the second to do so.

His later books have been less successful, but still sell in the hundreds of thousands and help him command speaking fees of nearly $100,000 a day.

Peters says of himself: "My objective in general is to irritate"n