Drucker on Managing Our Time

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 “Know Your Time,” Drucker discussed the three-step time management process as the foundation of executive effectiveness.

  • Recording time
  • Managing time
  • Consolidating time

For recording the time uses, Drucker suggested three diagnostic questions that every knowledge worker should ask themselves. Those questions deal with the unproductive and time-consuming activities over which every knowledge worker has some control.

Drucker also believed that managers need to be equally concerned with time-loss that results from poor management and deficient organization. He outlined the four major time-wasters caused by management and organizational deficiency.

  1. Organizational time-wasters result from a lack of system or foresight. Drucker suggested that the symptom to look for is the recurrent “crisis,” the crisis that comes back year after year. An organization should always have foreseen recurrent crisis. It can either be prevented or reduced to a routine that clerks can manage. The recurrent crisis is simply a symptom of carelessness and laziness.
  2. Time-waste results from overstaffing. If the senior leaders in the group spend more than a small fraction of their time (perhaps one-tenth suggested by Drucker) on “problems of human relations,” on feuds and frictions, or jurisdictional disputes and questions of cooperation, it is a clear indication that the workforce may be too large. In those situations, people get into each other’s way and become an impediment to performance.
  3. Another common time-waster is what Drucker called “mal-organization.” One major symptom is an excess of meetings. Drucker asserted that meetings are, by definition, a concession to the deficient organization. We have time to either meet or work, but not both at the same time. But, above all, meetings must be the exception rather than the rule. Managers should never allow meetings to become the main demand on a knowledge worker’s time. Too many meetings are always indicative of poor job structure or ineffective organizational components.
  4. The last major time-waster is a malfunction in information. In this case, the required information for the work does not flow to where it is needed, resulting in duplicated work or missed opportunities.

Eliminating time-wasting management defects can be fast or slow. The results of such diligence can yield dividends for the affected groups or an entire organization.