In this era of soaring food and gas prices, lost homes and the virtual overnight collapse of once-powerful companies, a return to fundamentals is in order. That's what makes the publication of Peter Drucker's Management: Revised Edition so timely. It's a revised and updated edition of his 1973 classic Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, which is also relevant for non-managers who care about where our institutions are headed and what roles they'll play as their careers inevitably change.
Even though much of the text has appeared in previous books and articles, it's valuable to have it logically and coherently codified in one book under the guidance of Joseph Maciariello. Maciariello — of the Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, Calif. — has collaborated on the last several Drucker books.
Drucker considered management to be a blend of action and contemplation. The words "think" and "thinking through" appear throughout. Managers must take the time to consider what they are doing and just as important, why they are doing it. He produced a vast body of work, nearly 40 books and countless articles, before he died in 2005 at 95. Many of his classic themes are on display, including:
•Management by objectives. Your organization's strategy for the present and future, converted into targets and assignments in such areas as marketing, innovation, human resources, productivity and social responsibility.
•The theory of the business. Collectively, it's the assumptions an organization makes about markets, customers, competitors, technology and other factors that make up its reason for being, or as he bluntly puts it, "what a company gets paid for." If your theory is outdated or no longer valid, you're headed for trouble.
•Management revolving around people. A manager's job is defined by relationships with colleagues, "upwards, downwards and sideways."
•Information responsibility. You must ask yourself what information you need to do your job and where you will find it. Related questions are what information you owe to others and what they owe to you.
•Getting out of the office. The key areas affecting your organization will inevitably take place in the outside world. Go out and talk to customers and find out who your non-customers are. Become a volunteer in a non-profit agency, not only for personal growth and helping others, but to work with and learn from people who don't necessarily see things as you do.
Drucker drew super-achievers as followers, such as Jack Welch (retired CEO of General Electric and now a best-selling author), Rick Warren (pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., author of The Purpose-Driven Life, one of the best-selling books of all time), and Jim Collins, author of the modern leadership classic Good to Great.
Collins wrote "Peter Drucker's Legacy," the foreword to Management: Revised Edition. He also contributed to The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization. While you'll want to keep the former (568 pages) on your bookshelf for ready reference, you can keep the latter (at 119 pages) in your briefcase. It may be a slim book, but it's thought-provoking and has the potential for profound impact in your workplace.
It is built around the following self-assessment questions: What is Our Mission? Who Is Our Customer? What Does the Customer Value? What Are Our Results? What is Our Plan?
Drucker's writings about each question are followed by a brief reflection from the likes of Collins, Northwestern University marketing guru Philip Kotler and Leader to Leader Institute Chairman Frances Hesselbein. Drucker's spirit lives on. His compassion and humor are illustrated in one particular passage from Management: Revised Edition. In describing why people may succeed when given a second chance in a job after failing the first time, he warns they should receive "only one second chance. The person who does not perform twice in a row better go to work for your competition!"