Drucker on Knowing Our Strengths

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

These are my takeawaysfrom reading the book.

In the chapter “Know Your Strengths andValues,” Drucker discussed why the knowledge workers would have to learn to manage themselves. By managing ourselves, itmeans that we will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatestcontribution. We will have to learn to develop ourselves and stay mentally productiveduring fifty-year working life. We also willhave to learn how and when to change because the environment simply does notstand still.

As a knowledge worker, learning to manage ourselves is critical because our careers are likely to outlive our employing organization. The average working life for knowledge worker likely will be fifty years, especially when more and more people are working well into the so-call “retirement” age. But the average life expectancy of a successful business is only about thirty years, many do not survive even that long. Increasingly, the knowledge workers will outlive any one employer, and will have to be prepared for more than one job, more than one assignment, and more than one career.

To prepare ourselves for the new environment, we need to know our strengths and weaknesses. Contrary to some people’s suggestions, we can only build performance on our strengths, not with our weaknesses.

Drucker suggested that there is only one way to discover our strengths: the feedback analysis. Whenever we make a key decision or take a key action, we write down what we expect will happen. After some months later, we review the results and evaluate our previous belief or expectations.

Within a fairly short period, maybe two or three years, this simple procedure will tell us first where our strengths are. This is the most important thing to know about ourselves. The analysis will show us what we did that gave us the full yield from our strengths. The analysis also will show where we are not particularly competent and places where we have no strengths and cannot perform.

The feedback analysis should yield the following conclusions.

The first conclusion, and the most important, is where to concentrate on our strengths. We need to place ourselves where our strengths can produce performance and results.

Second, we should work on improving your strengths. The feedback analysis can show where we need to improve our skills or to acquire new knowledge. It will show the gaps in our knowledge or places where the existing skills and knowledge are no longer adequate.

Third, we need to identify where intellectual arrogance can cause disabling ignorance. The feedback analysis can show that the main reason for poor performance is the result of simply not knowing enough, or the result of being contemptuous of knowledge outside our specialty. The feedback analysis can also help us remedy our bad habits. The bad habits are things we do or fail to do that inhibit our effectiveness and performance.

In conclusion, Drucker recommended that we waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. Instead, we should concentrate on areas of high competence and high skill, assuming they are relevant to our objectives and the environment. It takes far more energy and far more work to improve from incompetence to low mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. Unfortunately, most people try to concentrate on turning an incompetent area into a low mediocrity performance. The energy, resources, and time should instead go into enhancing our strengths into a star performance.