Six Sigma and more:
Remembering Peter Drucker
(With guest columnist Carole Schwinn)
This month's column honors the memory of Peter F. Drucker, who died on Friday, November 11, at the age of 95. Called by many the most influential management writer of the modern era, Drucker's books and articles have influenced and will continue to influence generations of management theorists and practitioners around the world.
According to his official biographies and obituaries,
Drucker was born in Vienna in 1909. He completed a doctorate in
public and international law while working as a newspaper reporter
in Frankfurt, Germany, and then worked as an economist for an international
bank in London. He moved to the U.S. in 1937 and began his teaching
career at Bennington College, Vermont. For more than twenty years
he was professor of management at the graduate business school of
New York University. Over his incredibly prolific career, Drucker
published 35 books, including The Practice of Management,
(1954), Managing for Results (1964), The Effective
Executive (1966, revised in 1992), The Age of Discontinuity
(1969), Innovation and Entrepreneurship (1986), Managing
in Turbulent Times (1993), and Management Challenges for
the 21st Century (1999).
What is less well known about Drucker is that a
lifelong dedication to ridding the world of totalitarianism was
the driving force for his work. The following passage from the preface
to Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices (1974),
explains his focus on effective management of organizations and
"If the institutions of our pluralist society of institutions do not perform in responsible autonomy, we will not have individualism and a society in which there is a chance for people to fulfill themselves. We will instead impose on ourselves complete regimentation in which no one will be allowed autonomy. We will have Stalinism rather than participatory democracy, let alone the joyful spontaneity of doing one's own thing. Tyranny is the only alternative to strong, performing autonomous institutions."
In other words, Drucker believed that the only way
to create the conditions for freedom and democracy was through proper
management and individual responsibility taken by every single person
in a society's organizations and institutions.
One of his best known theories, Management by Objectives
or MBO, has exactly that end in mind. When practiced as Drucker
intended, MBO creates a system of negotiation, shared understanding,
and agreement about what each manager is trying to achieve. In working
toward objectives, the system allows for ongoing communication,
feedback, coaching, and real-time corrective action. Under this
system, every manager is able to function effectively with a high
level of freedom and responsibility.
The problem, of course, is that far too few organizations have used MBO in the way that Drucker intended for it to be used. Instead, at least in too many instances, it has been used to rate, rank and punish those who fail to meet goals, objectives or standards. The same kind of problems show up when any great management theory, including TQM or Six Sigma, is implemented without an understanding of its higher level purpose and intentions.
This just might be a good time to learn more about
Drucker and to remember him for his enormous contributions to organizations
and institutions of all kinds. A fascinating article about his commitment
to liberty can be found at http://leadertoleader.org/leaderbooks/L2L/summer2005/maciariello.html.
It could also be a really good time to recall the higher level purposes and intentions of your Six Sigma efforts.
As always, I'd love to hear your comments and ideas.
I'm at email@example.com
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