From 1966 to 1970, he served in the United States Navy, making two deployments to Vietnam as a Navy Seabee, then later working in the Pentagon. From 1973 to 1974, he worked in the White House as a senior drug-abuse advisor, during the Nixon administration. Peters has acknowledged the influence of military strategist Colonel John Boyd on his later writing.
From 1974 to 1981, Peters worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, becoming a partner and Organization Effectiveness practice leader in 1979. In 1981, he left McKinsey to become an independent consultant.
In 1990, Peters was referred to in a British Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) publication as one of the world's Quality Gurus.
In Search of Excellence was published in 1982. It became a bestseller, gaining exposure in the United States at a national level when a series of television specials based on the book and hosted by Peters appeared on PBS. The primary ideas espoused solving BUSINESS problems with as little business-process overhead as possible, and empowering decision-makers at multiple levels of a company.
In later books Peters has encouraged personal responsibility in response to the "New Economy".
The December 2001 issue of Fast Company quoted Peters admitting that he had falsified the underlying data for In Search of Excellence. In an odd turn of events, however, he later insisted that this was untrue, and that he was the victim of an "aggressive headline."
Peters's latest book is The Little Big Things, released in March 2010.
Peters currently lives in West Tinmouth, Vermont with his wife Susan Sargent, and continues to write and speak about personal and business empowerment and problem-solving methodologies. His namesake company is based in the UK.