Management Challenges for the 21st Century (Classic Drucker Collection) Paperback – 22 May 2007
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No single person has influenced the course of business in the 20th century as much as Peter Drucker. He practically invented management as a discipline in the 1950s, elevating it from an ignored, even despised, profession into a necessary institution that "reflects the basic spirit of the modern age." Now, in Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Drucker looks at the profound social and economic changes occurring today and considers how management--not government or free markets--should orientate itself to address these new realities.
Drucker sees the period we're living in as one of "PROFOUND TRANSITION--and the changes are more radical perhaps than even those that ushered in the 'Second Industrial Revolution' of the middle of the 19th century, or the structural changes triggered by the Great Depression and the Second World War". In the midst of all this change, he contends, there are five social and political certainties that will shape business strategy in the not-too-distant future: the collapsing birthrate in the developed world; shifts in distribution of disposable income; a redefinition of corporate performance; global competitiveness; and the growing incongruence between economic and political reality. Drucker then looks at requirements for leadership ("One cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it"), the characteristics of the "new information revolution" (one should focus on the meaning of information, not the technology that collects it), productivity of the knowledge worker (unlike manual workers, knowledge workers must be seen as capital assets, not costs), and finally the responsibilities that knowledge workers must assume in managing themselves and their careers.
Drucker's writing career spans eight decades and the years have only served to sharpen his insight and perspective in a way that makes most other management texts seem derivative. While Management Challenges for the 21st Century is no quick aeroplane read, it is a wise and thought-provoking book that will both challenge and inspire the diligent reader. This book is for people who care about their businesses and careers in the information age- -CEOs, managers, and knowledge workers. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards, Amazon.com --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"His breadth of vision, his internationalism and his sober realism combine to make analysis of the present and prediction about the future gripping" - The Economist
"The most enduring management thinker of our time" - Business Week
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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.
In the 2 first chapters, we are sharing ideas from the Management's assumptions, which are no more valid in the "New Economy" to The New Certainties on which very few organizations and very few executives are working on and are invited to a call for action in front of a period of a profound transition.
In Chapter 3, Peter F. Drucker is describing, the Change leader, which mission will not be to manage change, because it is not possible to manage change, but to be ahead of it. Different recommendations are given, but the more important one is piloting the change to permanently test reality. If making the future is highly risky, it is less risky than not trying to make it in a period of upheavals, such as the one we are living in.
In chapter 4, the author convinces us that IT Information Technology has to move from the T to the I. That means that Technology as such is not the concern of executives when Information is. It is true that executives did not get always, with the Information Technologies Revolution, the Information they need for acting. But Information requires also to move from internal information to external Information, because strategy is mainly based on the last one. Information being the key resource for knowledge workers asks to be organized at individual and group level to anticipate and avoid surprises in front of significant events and to prepare for action.
In chapter 5, after discovering that the main contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase of productivity of the manual-worker in manufacturing, we are presented the challenge for the 21st century as being the increase of knowledge-worker productivity. The move there is from quantity measurement to quality measurement of an agreed defined task of a knowledge-worker, which is part of a growing population in developed countries. Knowledge-workers, owning their means of production, the knowledge between their ears, are becoming assets instead of costs. And if costs need to be controlled and reduced, assets need to be made to grow. This means a change of attitude of management but also of corporation governance who have to find balance between the interests of shareholders and knowledge-workers contributing to the wealth of the organization.
In the final chapter, we are presented the impact of all previous evolutions on the individual knowledge-worker, who will have to manage himself in this new environment. This is a real revolution in mentalities due to two new realities: workers are likely to outlive organizations, and the knowledge worker has mobility the manual-worker did not have. Partnership is becoming an answer to these changes with all the consequences for the individual who has to ask himself: "what should be my contribution" and "where and how can I have results that make a difference", yes a real revolution already there.
Management Challenges for the 21st Century is giving the basics to enter the period of profound transition we know with the arrival of the "New Economy" and will make the difference for the people who read this book. We really have to thank Peter F. Drucker for this important contribution at the age of 90, a masterpiece after more than sixty years devoted to management development.
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