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Joe’s Journal: On Work and Human Nature

Here is the latest post by Joseph A. Maciariello featured in the Joe’s Journal series at the Drucker Exchange (Dx) sponsored by the Drucker Institute. The Drucker Exchange (the Dx) is a platform for bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management.

To check out a wealth of resources and subscribe to its online newsletter, please click here.

“Management always lives, works, and practices in and for an institution, which is a human community held together by a bond: the work bond. And precisely because the object of management is a human community held together by the work bond for a common purpose, management always deals with the nature of Man and (as all of us with any practical experience have learned) with Good and Evil, as well. I have learned more theology as a practicing management consultant than when I taught religion.”

– Peter F. Drucker

At a social event for students in Claremont, Peter Drucker once asked me what I was working on. I told him, “Work and Human Nature,” and to my surprise it seemed to stun him. Drucker had the tendency to promote the work of other faculty members. So, it was it was not unusual for him to ask. But his response to my answer seemed to strike something very deep in his life. Little did I know just how deep it was.

As I later learned, Peter Drucker told his friend Bob Buford at Estes Park, Colo., in the summer of 1993 that “What we have now is not an economic problem but an existential problem.” What did he mean? Czeslaw Milosz, one of Drucker’s contemporaries and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980,sheds light on what Drucker might have had in mind with this comment about our “existential problem.” I quote from his Nobel Lecture as he struggles with the fascist ideas of his youth in Lithuania and Poland, where people were treated as “objects of dominion” rather than as beings created with dignity who yearn to be nourished:

“And yet perhaps our most precious acquisition is not an understanding of those ideas, which we touched in their most tangible shape, but respect and gratitude for certain things which protect people from internal disintegration and from yielding to tyranny. Precisely for that reason some ways of life, some institutions became a target for the fury of evil forces, above all, the bonds between people that exist organically, as if by themselves, sustained by family, religion, neighborhood, common heritage.”

Drucker’s discouragement with the breakdown of community within business organizations, and the ineffectiveness of government in delivering on its promises, led him to place more faith in social sector institutions where personhood could be realized. He was looking forward not only to the Post-Capitalist Society but to the Post-Business Society. As our attention is focused on America’s current economic problems, it might be useful to reflect on our existential needs for personhood and try to re-capture what we have lost as a society. The opportunities presented by this crisis should not be discounted.

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Joseph A. Maciariello is the Horton Professor of Management & Director of Research and Education, The Drucker Institute. You can contact him directly at joseph.maciariello@cgu.edu.

 

 

Saturday, August 13, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe’s Journal: On Opportunity and Post-it Notes

Here is the latest post by Joseph A. Maciariello featured in the Joe’s Journal series at the Drucker Exchange (Dx) sponsored by the Drucker Institute. The Drucker Exchange (the Dx) is a platform for bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management.

To check out a wealth of resources and subscribe to its online newsletter, please click here.

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“When a new venture does succeed, more often than not it is in a market other than the one it was originally intended to serve, with products or services not quite those with which it had set out, bought in large part by customers it did not even think of when it started, and used for a host of purposes besides the ones for which the products were first designed. If a new venture does not anticipate this, organizing itself to take advantage of the unexpected and unseen markets; if it is not totally market-focused, if not market-driven, then it will succeed only in creating an opportunity for a competitor.” – Peter F. Drucker

Peter Drucker thought the unexpected event, success or failure, was one of the most important sources of innovation. I love the story behind the development by 3M of Post-it notes. We discuss it in our book Drucker’s Lost Art of Management: Peter Drucker’s Timeless Vision for Building Effective Organizations, published by McGraw-Hill (2011), because of its power to illustrate one of Drucker’s most important sources of innovation. He urges us to systematically look for opportunities in unexpected successes and failures.

In 1970 Spencer Silver, a 3M researcher, was trying to invent a strong adhesive product but found that the one he had been working on was too weak for its intended use.Meanwhile, in 1974, his associate, Arthur Fry, was trying to keep his place in his hymnal at church and the pieces of paper he used as placeholders for various hymns were always falling out leading to frustration and time waste. So, he remembered his colleague Silver’s failed attempt to develop a strong adhesive and was able to retrieve some of the material and try it out in his hymnal. While it was too weak for Silver’s use, it was perfect for Fry’s. He could insert it and pull it off a page and then re-insert it on another page. Wondering if he had a successful product, Fry received permission to carry out a low-cost probe within 3M, and then he sent it to the CEO of the company. Then it went to major CEOs around the country as part of a market research effort. When the results came back positive, 3M launched the Post-it note commercially.

Now there are Post-it note dispensers, tabs, flags, highlighters, etc. The Post-it note became one of the most successful office product lines in business history. All this from an unexpected failure! Here is Drucker’s advice that I have found useful: Read The Wall Street Journal or The Economist from cover to cover (easier now to do online). If you find your nose “twitching” over something you did not expect, make note of it [on a Post-it?] and follow it up from time to time. [Isaac Asimov once observed, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That's funny’...”] You may have discovered a potential innovation from the unexpected news event. The early blogs on The Daily Drucker were frequently from investors looking for investment opportunities. No one had targeted investors with that book, but it was a heck of an idea. An unexpected market. If you try to innovate and fail, think of other markets for your products or services. You may be surprised. Good luck!

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Joseph A. Maciariello is the Horton Professor of Management & Director of Research and Education, The Drucker Institute. You can contact him directly at joseph.maciariello@cgu.edu.

Monday, August 1, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Window into Mozart

Here’s a recent post by the folks the Drucker Exchange (the Dx) that hosts an ongoing conversation about bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance and build on the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005), “the father of modern management.”

“The Dx was first published as Drucker Apps in 2009 (see Dx archives). Renamed and reconfigured in October 2010, the Dx is now designed to stimulate a discussion of current events that is illuminated by Peter Drucker’s timeless teachings. It is a blog for people who want to get informed, involved and inspired to convert ideas into action.”

In several dozen previous posts, I’ve shared a wide variety of opinions about what innovation and creativity are and do. Once again as is generally the case, Peter Drucker was at least 15-20 years ahead of his time, providing the “shoulders” to which a 12th century French monk, Bernard of Chartres,  once referred and on which so many prominent business thinkers now stand. In the article that follows, the focus is on Mozart but — once again — through the prism of Drucker’s original insights.

To check out the wealth of resources and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

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“They showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down music already finished in his head.”

This line, from the film version of Amadeus, is how mediocre composer Antonio Salieri describes a musical score by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In real life,

Unfinished portrait of Mozart by Joseph Lange

Mozart’s work had plenty of false starts. Nevertheless, the idea of creativity being nearly heaven-sent is a persistent one across many fields. The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, a new book by professors Jeff Dyer of Brigham Young University, Hal Gregersen of INSEAD and Harvard’s Clayton Christensen, offers a heftily-researched look at how innovation and creativity work. “Becoming a more innovative thinker takes patience and hard work,” explains an article about the book on CNNMoney. “Groundbreaking ideas, even those that look like bolts from the blue, usually come from painstaking preparation.”

This was a concept that Peter Drucker frequently emphasized, most prominently in his 1985 classic Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Companies that innovate successfully don’t view inspiration as mysterious and elusive—or get caught “waiting around,” as Drucker put it, “for the muse to kiss you.”

“They view it as the result of concerted effort and sound processes.  “Most of creativity is just hard and systematic work,” Drucker told an interviewer in 2000. “Innovation has to have a systematic approach.”

That approach doesn’t even have to be fleet-footed. “While others rush around in the frenzy and busyness which very bright people so often confuse with ‘creativity,’ the plodder puts one foot in front of the other and gets there first,” Drucker wrote in The Effective Executive.

Drucker ultimately identified a very particular course for the plodder to travel by spelling out seven specific sources of innovative opportunity.

“The line between these seven source areas . . . are blurred, and there is considerable overlap between them,” Drucker wrote. “They can be likened to seven windows, each on a different side of the same building.” They are:

Unexpected events (successes or failures)
Incongruities (or the difference between what is and what everybody assumes something to be)
Process needs (where you perfect a process that already exists or replace a link that is weak)
Disruptions in industry or market structure
Shifting demographics

Changes in perception
New knowledge (both scientific and nonscientific)

For those who are relatively unfamiliar with Peter Drucker’s work, I highly recommend The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management, published by Harper (2008). t is available in a softbound edition and for sale by Amazon for only $11.42

Saturday, July 30, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe’s Journal: On Paying Attention to Demographics

Here is the latest post by Joseph A. Maciariello featured in the Joe’s Journal series at the Drucker Exchange (Dx) sponsored by the Drucker Institute. The Drucker Exchange (the Dx) is a platform for bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management.

To check out a wealth of resources and subscribe to its online newsletter, please click here.

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“Of all external changes, demographics — defined as changes in population, its size, age structure, composition, employment, educational status, and income — are the clearest. They are unambiguous. They have the most predictable consequences. They have a major impact on what will be bought, by whom, and in what quantities.

Statistics are only the starting point. For those genuinely willing to go out into the field, to look and to listen, changing demographics is both a highly productive and a highly dependable innovative opportunity.” – Peter F. Drucker

Demography, the study of human population and its makeup, was second nature to Peter Drucker. He relied heavily upon demographic information in his work as a Social Ecologist. And we would be wise to follow his example. He believed that the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or the GI Bill of Rights, passed during the Roosevelt administration, would ultimately create the knowledge worker and the knowledge society. By the time that provisions of the original bill expired in 1956, approximately 7.8 million of the 16 million World War II veterans had taken advantage of educational and training opportunities offered by the GI Bill. At one time, GI’s comprised nearly 50% of undergraduate enrollments in US colleges and universities.

With this tremendous growth in supply of educated talent it was only a matter of time before demand appeared for services of “white collar workers.” Knowledge was applied to work and to the management of work on a massive scale, which led to an increase in productivity and wealth. The growth in disposable income led to purchases of durable goods and to new housing to accommodate rapid family formation that accompanied the baby boom at end of World War II. Of course, 18 years or so later there would be a tremendous growth in the number of college students from the baby boom group of the late 1940s and early 1950s. All these things were quite predictable; one only had to look and track changes in trends. Drucker applied demography to the aging of the population in 1976 and was therefore able to comfortably predict the pressures that were going to develop on Social Security and Medicare once children of the baby boom generation reached age 65. Of course this is happening right now, but policy makers did nothing about it. Rather, politicians from both parties decided to “kick the ball down the road,” thus contributing to the fiscal mess that our country now finds itself in. Those who pay attention to demographic data can use it to their benefit. Those who choose to ignore these data do so at the risk of posterity. May this crisis cause the people of the United States to rise up and elect people from both parties that see demographic trends clearly and have the courage to act upon them in time to prevent “knee-jerk reactions.”

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Joseph A. Maciariello is the Horton Professor of Management & Director of Research and Education, The Drucker Institute. You can contact him directly at joseph.maciariello@cgu.edu.

 

Monday, July 25, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“All Together Now” with Peter Drucker

Image credit: mutanthands.com

Here is another thought-provoking article featured by the the Drucker Exchange (the Dx), a website that “hosts an ongoing conversation about bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance and build on the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management. The Dx was first published as Drucker Apps in 2009 (see Dx archives). Renamed and reconfigured in October 2010, the Dx is now designed to stimulate a discussion of current events that is illuminated by Peter Drucker’s timeless teachings. It is a blog for people who want to get informed, involved and inspired to convert ideas into action.”

To check out the wealth of resources available and sign up for a weekly newsletter, please click here.

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The traditional industry model is built on institutional loyalty. The new “free agent” model is built on individualism. But neither of these, according to an article in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, “creates the conditions for collaborative trust that business today requires.”

And so the piece — by Paul Adler, Charles Heckscher and Laurence Prusak—calls for a “new type of organization that excels at combining the knowledge of diverse specialists” to create “a collaborative community.”

Successful examples of such collaborative communities, the authors say, can be found at IBM, Citibank, NASA and Kaiser Permanente. What these places have in common are, among other things, an “ethic of contribution,” a “shared purpose,” and an “infrastructure in which collaboration is valued and rewarded.”

While Peter Drucker rarely wrote about “collaboration” per se, he certainly captured its spirit. “The modern organization,” he wrote in his own HBR essay 19 years ago, “cannot be an organization of boss and subordinate. It must be organized as a team.”

Beyond that, Drucker hit on many of the same components of collaboration that HBR highlights. For instance, the ethic of contribution, as we’ve noted before, was one that Drucker frequently stressed. “The question is not: ‘What do I want to contribute?’” Drucker declared. “It is not: ‘What am I told to contribute?’ It is: ‘What should I contribute?’”

Likewise, imbuing an organization with a sense of shared purpose was also something Drucker considered to be essential. “Every enterprise requires commitment to common goals and shared values,” Drucker asserted in The New Realities. “Without such commitment there is no enterprise; there is only a mob.”

And Drucker devoted a lot of thought to how organizations should foster what HBR calls the “infrastructure of collaboration.” “The knowledge worker. . . is usually a specialist,” Drucker wrote in his 1967 classic, The Effective Executive. “By itself, however, a specialty is a fragment and sterile. Its output has to be put together with the output of other specialists before it can produce results. The task is not to breed generalists. It is to enable the specialist to make himself and his speciality effective. This means he must think through who has to use his output and what the user needs to know and to understand to be able to make productive the fragment the specialist produces.”


Sunday, July 24, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Indispensable Office Stinker

Here’s a recent post by the folks the Drucker Exchange (the Dx) that hosts an ongoing conversation about bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance and build on the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management. The Dx was first published as Drucker Apps in 2009 (see Dx archives). Renamed and reconfigured in October 2010, the Dx is now designed to stimulate a discussion of current events that is illuminated by Peter Drucker’s timeless teachings. It is a blog for people who want to get informed, involved and inspired to convert ideas into action.

In previous posts, I’ve expressed my opinion that so-called “indispensable” people tend to create bottlenecks. In the article that follows, we are provided with at least a partial explanation of why they can also be so “fussy, impolite or otherwise disagreeable.”

To check out the wealth of resources and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

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No one likes a fussy, impolite or otherwise disagreeable coworker. But dealing with someone like that can be tricky, especially if that person excels at his or her assignment.

Michael Feuer, former CEO of OfficeMax, has published a new book called The Benevolent Dictator, which examines this and other challenges of managing people. The real conundrum, as Feuer told IndustryWeek, is when the jerks in the office “are terrific and get the job done.”

Peter Drucker had little tolerance for bad behavior at work — a subject we’ve taken up before. “Manners,” Drucker wrote, “are the ‘lubricating oil’ of an organization.”

And yet Drucker, like Feuer, also understood that successful enterprises often have to live with people’s flaws, including their personality defects. Both U.S. Army General George Marshall and former General Motors Chairman Alfred Sloan “were highly demanding men, but both knew what matters is the ability to do the assignment,” Drucker explained. “If that exists, the company can always decide the rest. If it does not exist, the rest is useless.”

One key is to structure the organization so that those who rub others the wrong way have minimal contact with their colleagues. “A good tax accountant in private practice might be greatly hampered by his inability to get along with people,” Drucker wrote in his 1967 classic, The Effective Executive. “But in an organization such a man can be set up in an office of his own and shielded from direct contact with other people.”

This build-on-strengths approach, Drucker noted, applies all the way up to the highest levels of government or commerce. “In picking members of their cabinets, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman said, in effect, ‘Never mind the personal weaknesses. Tell me first what each of them can do,’” Drucker wrote. “It may not be coincidence that these two presidents had the strongest cabinets in 20th century U.S. history.

 

Monday, July 4, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe’s Journal: On Managing Oneself

Here is the latest post by Joseph A. Maciariello featured in the Joe’s Journal series at the Drucker Exchange (Dx) sponsored by the Drucker Institute. The Drucker Exchange (the Dx) is a platform for bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management.

To check out a wealth of resources and subscribe to its online newsletter, please click here.

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“Managing oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves profoundly challenges social structure. For every existing society, even the most ‘individualist’ one, takes two things for granted, if only subconsciously: Organizations outlive workers, and most people stay put. Managing oneself is based on the very opposite realities.” – Peter F. Drucker

As knowledge workers we must take responsibility for our own growth and development. This requires that we know our strengths and values. It is not surprising to find Tom Rath’s 2007 book, Strengthfinders 2.0, is No. 1 this week on The Wall Street Journal bestselling list of business books. It follows a line of books on this topic that have sold extremely well. Bernard Haldane’s ideas in the 1940s started us off; then followed What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. Don’t laugh! It is in its 11th edition and has sold over 8 million copies. Peter Drucker has also emphasized strengths for years, especially in The Effective Executive, one of the most influential management books of all time.

“Don’t buck the market” is a saying on Wall Street, and I believe there is truth here; the subject of self-management is more than a fad or a bubble. All of us have strengths even if they were developed out of extreme weakness—for example, those who are likely to be the most compassionate in an area such as alcohol abuse are often reformed alcoholics themselves. And some of the best doctors I know have been severely ill at one or more points in their life. We are all endowed with gifts and they do change over time; the idea is to seek them out and then develop them with all our might. That is where we are likely to be happiest. Of course, we may have strengths in an area for which we have no supporting values. In that case, we are faced with a choice—to do well in the eyes of family and friends or to please our inner self. What helps here is our mortality. We can’t take anything with us, so we might as well do what we are passionate about and hope that it pays the bills. If not, we can try to do it as a second career. I know that lurking inside of me is a great tenor, but I am the only one who knows (not good).

Then comes the Drucker question, “What do I want to be remembered for?” Making another million? Or helping others? It’s up to us. These are heavy responsibilities, and in the face of tough times we may not have much choice. The trick is to be prepared and wait for the right opportunity.

Finally, do not underestimate how difficult it is for people who want to move from success to significance once they have enough money to do so. The right opportunity may require you to obtain some mentoring. So, if you are in this position, look for an experienced mentor. Best wishes.

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Those who are obsessed with the latest lists of this week’s or this month’s bestselling business books would be well-advised to assign much greater value to the lists of bestselling business books during the last five or ten years. As Joe Maciariello points out, Tom Rath’s book was first published by Gallup Press in 2007.

Joseph A. Maciariello is the Horton Professor of Management & Director of Research and Education, The Drucker Institute. You can contact him directly at joseph.maciariello@cgu.edu.

Sunday, July 3, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe’s Journal: On Charisma and Leadership

Joseph A. Maciariello

Here is the latest post by Joseph A. Maciariello featured in the Joe’s Journal series at the Drucker Exchange (Dx) sponsored by the Drucker Institute. The Drucker Exchange (the Dx) is a platform for bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management.

To check out a wealth of resources and subscribe to its online newsletter, please click here.

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“Charisma is ‘hot’ today. There is an enormous amount of talk about it, and an enormous number of books are written on the charismatic leader. But, the desire for charisma is a political death wish. No century has seen more leaders with more charisma than the 20th century, and never have political leaders done greater damage than the four giant leaders of the 20th century: Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao. What matters is not charisma. What matters is whether the leader leads in the right direction or misleads. The constructive achievements of the 20th century were the work of completely uncharismatic people. The two military men who guided the Allies to victory in World War II were Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall. Both were highly disciplined, highly competent and deadly dull. Perhaps the greatest cause for hope, for optimism is that to the new majority, the knowledge workers, the old politics make no sense at all. But proven competence does.”   –   Peter F. Drucker

This was an important topic for Peter Drucker because of his extraordinarily negative experiences with charismatic leaders, who did what charismatic leaders are frequently prone to do — and that is to begin to believe that they’re infallible and that they know better than anybody else. This can and has lead to great harm.

Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao — especially Stalin, Hitler and Mao — were always on Drucker’s mind when he discussed the danger of charisma and when he wrote the article  “Beware Charisma” (See Chapter 8, The New Realities). The problem with charisma in leadership is not charisma itself. If leaders are properly motivated to lead — that is, according to the mission of their organization, and they take on their responsibilities, not as a matter of rank or privilege, but as a matter of work and responsibility – then a charismatic dimension to one’s personality helps. Charisma can be productive. But there’s always danger lurking if charisma is not balanced.

If you go to the other side, Drucker notes that some of the most effective leaders in history, like Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln, were extraordinarily effective but were not known for their charisma. In the case of Truman, Drucker thought that he was about as charismatic as a dead mackerel. And Lincoln was an uncouth, raw-boned man from Kentucky. Drucker favored people for leadership who held socially productive missions; treated leadership as responsibility; and were able to lead effectively during turbulent times. He admired Winston Churchill who led England in World War II and who developed many able leaders.

Even good leaders with charisma face the danger of having success go to their heads. They get into situations where they tend to believe they’re infallible; they pile success upon success and think that they’re invincible. But, the best leaders serve the mission of their organization and do not seek their positions for purposes of power but for service. And they listen to others and take constructive criticism.

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Joseph A. Maciariello is the Horton Professor of Management & Director of Research and Education, The Drucker Institute. You can contact him directly at joseph.maciariello@cgu.edu.

 

Sunday, June 12, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fab Five

No, this article is not about the five freshmen who were starters on the University of Michigan basketball team that lost NCAA championship games, to Duke in 1992 (71–51) and to North Carolina in 1993 (77–71).

However, it should be noted that Peter Drucker was an avid sports fan, especially of football and basketball, and frequently praised the leadership of coaches such as John Wooden and Bill Walsh with whom he also became close personal friends.

Peter Drucker

Here is an especially interesting article featured by the Drucker Exchange (Dx) in which some of the insights that Adam Bryant shares in his recently published book, The Corner Office, are juxtaposed with comparable thoughts expressed by Peter Drucker years (sometimes decades) ago. To check out all the resources at the Drucker Institute and sign up for its free online newsletter, please click here.

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Earlier this week [April 22, 2011], we explored how embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has struck out as a leader. But what are the qualities that the best leaders exhibit?

Adam Bryant

One intriguing set of answers comes courtesy of Adam Bryant, who pens the “Corner Office” column for the New York Times and whose book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, has just been published.

Bryant posits that the highly successful leaders he has interviewed all share five distinct qualities, as well as look for them in those that they hire. As noted below, we find that each of these characteristics resonates with Peter Drucker’s insights, as well. They are:

1. Passionate curiosity

Bryant: The most effective leaders “ask big-picture questions. They wonder why things work the way they do and whether those things can be improved upon. They want to know people’s stories, and what they do.”

Drucker: “The leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.”

2. Battle-hardened confidence

Bryant: Great leaders display “a concept known as ‘locus of control.’ . . . People who have it will take on, and own, any assignment thrown their way. They say those words that are music to a manager’s ears: ‘Got it. I’m on it.’”

Drucker: “Truman not only said, ‘I am the President now, and the buck stops here,’ but he also asked, ‘What are the key tasks?’”

3. Team smarts

Bryant: “The most effective executives are more than team players. They understand how teams work and how to get the most out of the group.”

Drucker: “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make weaknesses irrelevant.”

4. A simple mind-set

Bryant: “Most senior executives want the same thing from people who present to them: Be concise, get to the point, make it simple.”

Drucker: “Complicated controls do not work. They confuse. . . . When [an employee] stumbles over complexities, ambiguities or subtleties, redesign for simplicity.”

5. Fearlessness

Bryant: “When chief executives talk about executives on their staffs who are fearless, there is a reverence in their voices. They wish they could bottle it and pass it out to all their employees. They’re looking for calculated and informed risk-taking, but mostly they want people to do things — and not just what they’re told to do.”

Drucker: “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

Which of these five qualities do you think is the most important in a leader? Are there any others you’d add to the list?

Monday, April 25, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

McJob Creation

Here is a recent article from the Drucker Exchange (the Dx), an online resource that hosts an ongoing conversation about bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance and build on the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management. To learn more about the Dx and the Institute as well as to check out their resources and sign up for a free subscription to its online newsletter, please click here.

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Maybe we really are becoming a nation of hamburger flippers.

What else could we conclude after reading the news this week [April 4, 2011] that McDonald’s is set to hire 50,000 new workers in the U.S. as the economy recovers? To be fair, some of these will be management jobs that pay as much as $50,000 a year. And McDonald’s notes that half of its franchise owners began by working as crew members in one of its restaurants.

Yet many of the positions being created will offer around $8 an hour—not exactly a living wage.

“The problem is these aren’t jobs you can really sustain yourself with,” Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, told a reporter.

At the least, the McDonald’s hiring spree seems a symbol of an economy that, as the unemployment rate finally begins to fall, is generating a disproportionate number of low-wage jobs. The National Employment Law Project put out a report in February showing lower-wage industries (such as fast food and retailing, with hourly earnings of $9.03 to $12.91) accounted for 23 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, but 49 percent of the jobs added during the last year.

The NELP analysis noted that this is different than during the recovery from the 2001 recession, when there was “significantly more growth in higher-wage industries.”

As we’ve discussed before, Peter Drucker was concerned that service workers might be left behind in a knowledge age, and believed that increasing their productivity was the key to eventually providing them with decent wages. ‘The productivity of the non-knowledge, services worker will become the social challenge of the knowledge society,” Drucker wrote. “On it will depend the ability of the knowledge society to give decent incomes, and with them dignity and status, to non-knowledge workers.”

But can we get there?

“It is too early to predict whether the pattern of unbalanced, bottom-heavy growth will continue,” the NELP report concluded. “But these findings do suggest that for unemployed workers, as well as for those seeking to move up in the labor market or entering it for the first time, the current distribution of job opportunities has deteriorated, compared to before the recession.”

What do you think: What kind of jobs is America poised to produce in the future—and if the answer is “lots of low-wage ones,” how do we turn that around?

Saturday, April 16, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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