Drucker on Learning Effectiveness

In his book, The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management, Peter Drucker analyzed the ways that management practices and principles affect the performance of organizations, individuals, and society. The book covers the basic principles of management and gives professionals the tools to perform the tasks that the environment of tomorrow will require of them.

These are my takeaways from reading the book.

In the chapter “Effectiveness Must Be Learned,” Drucker discussed the knowledge worker in a modern organization and why they need to be effective. Many organizations seem to want the “universal genius,” and universal genius has always been in short supply. Drucker’s experience of humanity indicated that the only person in abundant supply is the “universal incompetent.”

Without everyone being the universal genius, increasing effectiveness seems to be the only area where we can hope to raise the level of the knowledge worker’s performance, achievement, and satisfaction significantly.

While we certainly could use people of much greater abilities in many places and people of broader knowledge, Drucker believed that not too much further can be expected from those two approaches. Another word, if we are not going to breed a new race of supermen, we will have to run our organizations with men and women as they are.

We will have to learn to build organizations in such a manner that anybody who has strength in one important area can put it to work. It is unreasonable to expect the performance we need by simply raising our standards for abilities, let alone by hoping for the universally gifted person. We will have to extend the performance range of people through the tools they work with rather than through a sudden quantum jump in human ability.

If we cannot increase the supply of a resource, we must increase its yield. If organizations must learn how to make better use of people that we already have, that means increasing effectiveness. Effectiveness is the one tool to help our people with the ability and knowledge yield more and better results.

Drucker also learned that there is no “effective personality.” All these effective people have in common is the practices that make effective whatever they have and whatever they are. All they have in common is the ability to get the right things done.

Effectiveness, in Drucker’s words, is a habit. Effectiveness is a complex of practices, and practices can always be learned. Practices are also simple, but practices are always exceedingly hard to do well. We must acquire those practices and learn to do them till they become second-nature, conditioned reflex, and firmly ingrained habit.

In summary, there is no reason why anyone with normal endowment should not acquire competence in any practice and become more effective. Mastery in some areas might elude many of us, for that one might need special talents. However, what effectiveness needs is the “regular practices’ and “the scales” to amplify the effectiveness.