Drucker on Being the Change Leader, Part 2

In his book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Peter Drucker analyzed and discussed the new paradigms of management.

Although much of the discussion revolves around the perspective of the organization, these are my takeaways on how we can apply his teaching on our journey of being a knowledge worker.

Drucker asserted that “One cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it.”

While many of us seek the comfort of stability and status quo, the world rarely cares about what we want. In a period of upheavals with rapid change being the norm, the only ones who survive are the Change Leaders.

A change leader sees change as an opportunity. A change leader looks for change, learns how to find the right changes, and work to make them effective both outside and inside of the organization. Change leaders need to be aware of four elements. The second element is “Systematic methods to look for and to anticipate change.”

By practicing systematic innovation, the enterprise adopts a mindset for becoming a change leader. That change leader mindset also makes the entire organization see change as an opportunity.

There are many ways to pursue innovation, and Drucker outlined seven approaches, or “windows of opportunity” as he called them.

  1. The organization’s own unexpected successes and unexpected failures, but also the unexpected successes and unexpected failures of the organization’s competitors.
  2. Incongruities, especially incongruities in the process, whether of production or distribution, or incongruities in customer behavior.
  3. The on-going process needs.
  4. Changes in industry and market structures.
  5. Changes in demographics.
  6. Changes in meaning and perception.
  7. Newly discovered knowledge.

At the same time, Drucker pointed out three traps that change leaders should work hard to avoid.

1. The first trap is an innovation opportunity that is not in tune with the strategic, political and economic realities—of demographics, of the changes in the distribution of income, of global competitiveness, and so on. The “misfit” opportunity often looks very tempting, but it usually requires extraordinarily wasteful amounts of effort, money and time.

2. The second trap is to confuse “novelty” with “innovation.” The test of an innovation is that it creates value. A novelty only creates amusement. The test of innovation ultimately can be defined as “Do customers want it and will they pay for it?”

3. The third trap is to confuse motion with action. We often perform motions, so we can avoid taking difficult or painful actions. Actions are the right things to do, and motions are simply doing something, which often does not address the real problem.

According to Drucker, innovation is not “flash of genius.” It is hard work. And this work should be organized as a systematic effort within the enterprise.