Peter Drucker on Management

I have a Daily Drucker – pithy comments for every day of the year — by my desk.  He was voted number 1 Guru’s Guru by the Harvard Business Review.  The introduction to the book (written by Jim Collins – co author of Built to Last) had a rejoinder to that.  As he was leaving, Professor Drucker said “I have learnt much from our conversation today”.  Jim suggested that Drucker didn’t see himself as a guru; he remained a student.  Amen to that.

It wasn’t today’s piece that inspired me – just a quote in my daily newspaper (The i ,as you have asked). Here it is:

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work”

This is a bit like watching “The Office”.  You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Or just wince in recognition.

But, whether you are a manager or a team member – you know what he means.  That is the power of a quote – like the one above.

So what did it make you think?  Here’s my list:

  • You can always learn from a bad manager.  When you become one, at least you already know what not to do.  Embrace the learning opportunity with a sly smile!
  • We see examples of this everyday.  From hearing of yet another scandal in a large organisation, to government interventions in areas it knows little about (e.g. the NHS in the UK), to large scale posturing (the current US stand off between the republicans and the president) – Drucker feels more right than wrong
  • Is it just that bad news sells, and we witness the results in our news?  May be so – but there is a lot of it about!
  • Does it make you want to look at your systems anew and think “if we were starting today, would we have all this in place?  Or would it be best to edit what we have, or even wipe the slate clean?”
  • Don’t just sit there and moan – invent your own future!





“If only I’d thought of that”

You must have had this happen to you?  Someone says something that knocks you back on your heels, that really takes the wind out of your sails.  Then, on the way home, or even a minute later, you think of the perfect response?  It happened to me recently, and my only redress is here!  I’m just hoping the person involved will see this.

I was at a seminar organised by a blogger who writes about the NHS (I have mentioned Roy Lilley before).  It was a tremendously full evening session, with lots of thought provoking discussion with a senior NHS leader.  Most of the audience were either medics or administrators. Some were from the private sector, who were bidding for various contracts in the NHS.

I was chatting to the person I had sat next to, and when we broke for ‘networking’ I offered my  business card.  “What makes you think I am important enough to have one of your cards” he said.  Now, you can’t feel the tranche of sarcasm that was ladled into this sentence.  I faltered slightly and then said, “Well, as you asked a question about management within paediatric services, I thought you might be interested to know that is the sort of thing I am involved with – I run workshops that help people to lead more effectively.  “Oh?  Why?  Isn’t it just because we aren’t picking the right people in the first place.  We just need to employ the real leaders – those who have got it already.  You can’t train leadership…”

Do we trust that those at the top know we are supporting them?

I moved on, nonplussed.  When I had formulated the right reply, he had gone.  I wanted to say “So, if we wanted better paediatric surgeons, then we just need to employ the people who feel they could be good at it?  I assume you just woke up one morning and thought “I’d like to help kids with serious heart conditions”.  You didn’t go to college for 7 years, then served 5 years as an apprentice before climbing your hierarchy?  Thought not.  Why do you think leadership is different?”

Look – I feel better now.  I would have felt a lot better if I’d said it then.  And that is what I learnt then – a holding comment would have kept him there – “That sounds pretty arrogant” may have given me some thinking time!