Penetrating Insights from the Master Management Philosopher,
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This review is from: Management Challenges for the 21st Century (Classic Drucker Collection) (Paperback)
I was introduced to Peter Drucker by my brother, who is a student of organisational behaviour. Like any engineering student I approached Drucker's thought with skepticism because I believed that organizations and human behaviour, unlike the laws of nature, are so complex that they do not lend themselves to the glib deterministic rules that management theorists propound. The thoughts of Peter Drucker, as expounded in this book, are prescient, apt and broad-ranging to address today's management challenges.
This book is not so much a list of do's and don'ts of management or organisational theory as it is Drucker's reflections on some of the challenges that workers in developed countries shall face in the next half century. He takes on six issues arranged in six different chapters. The first five chapters deal with the issues that shall determine organizational strategies such as:
- The declining birth rate in the developed world: This will have tremendous social and political consequences, as it is without precedent in the modern era. Therefore, organisations' strategy must take demographics into account
- Global competitiveness: No institution, whether business or NGO can succeed unless it measures up to the leaders in its field, anywhere in the world. It shall no longer be possible to base a business or countries' success on the availability of cheap labour.
- Distribution of disposable income : businesses will have to base their strategy on their knowledge of, and adaption to the changes in, disposable income
In the last chapter, which is to my mind the most perceptive, Professor Drucker shares his thoughts on the productivity of the knowledge worker and the increased importance of managing oneself. He argues that, just as the improvement in the productivity of the manual industrial worker was the key to emergence and wealth of the developed West and East Asia in the 20th century, the improvement of the productivity of the knowledge worker will be pivotal in the 21st century if the West is to maintain its economic position. He observes that the knowledge worker will have to manage him/herself in the future instead of waiting for the human resources department of his/her organisation. He also argues that, in order to perform at their best, knowledge workers must know themselves and to plan for the second half of their lives (due to longer life expectancies) by asking the following questions:
- Who am I? What are my strengths?
- How do I perform?
- In what organisation do I belong? What is my contribution?
The message in the last chapter hit close to home. As one in the early stages of a knowledge career, I found Drucker's thoughts to be perspicacious, clear and penetrating.
One small snag though: I thought his writing was clear - most of the time. Sometimes, whole words were written in capital letters. Perhaps, he did this to emphasize the importance of the idea under discussion. However, the effect was to put me off. I thought it was a bit rude to SHOUT at the reader. I am sure that most people who take the time to read Professor Drucker's works need not be shouted at. Professor Drucker also argued that the retirement would be raised to 79 from the current 65 in most Western countries. My thoughts while reading that chapter were, "What would the strike-happy French railway workers think about that one?"
In conclusion, the book is a mine of ideas on the future of organisations and knowledge workers in the developed world. I found it to be a stimulating and engaging read. It deserves my 4 stars.