In its November 21st edition, “The Economist” paid homage to the late Peter Drucker who four years after his death remains in their words, “the king of management gurus”. But what I always admired most about Mr. Drucker was his own take on being a guru. It is said, quotes the “Economist”, that he liked to say that “people use the word guru because the word charlatan is so hard to spell”.
In a world filled with management fads, exotic theories, and varied approaches designed to wring the best out of organizational performance, Peter Drucker never lost touch with the most elemental truth of organizational life: that organizations are fundamentally human entities. Consequently, the same human management challenges that have bedeviled managers for centuries remain to test the management practitioners of today.
As the Economist points out, Mr. Drucker had high praise for the contributions of Scientific Management. He insisted that the best organizations were those who set high standards, had clear objectives and goals, and who consistently measured progress in pursuit of those goals. But beneath it all, Drucker never lost sight of the human element responsible for making everything work and the organization a success.
In my Workshops, I often hear comments from managers who lament that their responsibility for making their numbers, accomplishing their mission, or getting the job done robs them of time for the “people stuff”. Really, I say: “tell me how you accomplish any of those things without thinking about people”?
For me, the most fundamental reality of organizational life is that there are people attached to everything a manager does, wants done, or must do. Or said another way, “it’s always about people”. The very best managers get this insight at the most basic level. Consequently, they understand that they make their numbers, accomplish missions, and get the job done through — not by ignoring — their people.
I will have more to say about helpful ways to be that sort of manager in subsequent postings.