Book Review: Management by Peter Drucker

Book Review: Management by Peter Drucker

Management is one of the best known texts by one of the best known authors in business.  There were parts of this rewrite (although apparently a slight rewrite) and parts that I didn’t.  It is, after all, a text book and few could be expected to like it the whole way through.  With that in mind, I thought I’d point out some of the things I found most salient/practical (even if some of them are just writing down things that we are already seeing):

  1. The entire first part, “Managements New Realities” is worth the price of the book.  I believe most of this to be rewritten by Drucker’s long-time colleague Joseph Maciariello and it is very well done.  One of the most powerful concepts that Drucker/Maciariello point out is the concept of a “Knowledge Technician”.  A “Knowledge Technician” is separated from a line worker by the fact that her job requires the application of knowledge that is difficult to obtain, BUT the simplicity of what is done with that knowledge separates them from a true knowledge worker.  For example, a paralegal (probably even most lawyers) apply skills that are difficult to obtain but for the most part do the same thing over and over again (process a divorce, etc…).  I agree with Drucker/Maciariello that much of the next 25 years will be about identifying those jobs and commoditizing/automating them while carefully avoiding too much disruption to true knowledge work.  This is, of course, already happening with outsourcing and other such trends.
  2. Knowledge workers are more likely to identify with their occupation than with their company.  Challenges within that occupation are what will motivate them not success for the company (even when that means financial gain).
  3. Drucker spends a lot of time on the importance to the services organization of “organized abandonment of the obsolete”, it’s something we probably don’t think about often enough.
  4. There is a great point that while manual work (even to an extent mass production) has been around for centuries, the very concept of “productivity” didn’t really exist until World War II (or at least Frederick Taylor).  Similarly knowledge work can/should be studied and improved upon.  Drucker believes this will largely be driven based on defining goals and establishing accountability.
  5. A rather obvious point is made about the impact that true knowledge workers have on their company without needing to ever manage people.  The need for alternative career paths is blatantly obvious when a developer (my example not Drucker’s) is worth $1M to Facebook, far more than all but the most senior managers.
  6. I found a lot of power in the concept of the management letter.  Drucker suggests it as a periodic way for employees and lower level managers to write a letter to their superior explaining what they’re doing and how they are providing value.  I have implemented it with my team and found it really useful.  It is amazing how over the course of even just a few weeks a concept that you’ve had your team marching towards becomes one thing in your mind and another thing entirely in the mind of the person who owns it.  It could be because of an idle/errant comment that you made or just the passing of time, but it is important to make sure everyone shares the same vision every so often.