Drucker on Being the Change Leader, Part 5

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 these four elements.

Policies to make the future

Systematic methods to look for and to anticipate change

The right way to introduce change, both within and outside the organization

Policies to balance change and continuity

In the end, Drucker asserted that we face long years of profound changes in demographics, in politics, in society, in philosophy and, above all, in worldview. Changes in belief are difficult to theorize in the period of the change. Only when such a period is over, perhaps decades later, we begin to have theories developed to explain what has happened.

At the same time, it is futile to try to ignore the changes and to pretend that tomorrow will be like yesterday. This is the position that existing institutions tend to adopt in such a period of change. When an organization suffers from such delusion, they become a visible target for a disruptor or challenger to take their place in the market.

The only thing left we can confidently predict is that many of today’s leaders in all areas are unlikely still to be around thirty years and certainly not in their present form. But to try to anticipate what the changes will be is equally difficult. These changes are not predictable.

This leads us to the only change management policy likely to succeed is to try to make the future. Even with the constraints we face in our environment, Drucker believed the future is still malleable. We can still create the future we seek.

This brings us to Drucker’s final point about being the change leader. Trying to make the future can be highly risky. However, it is less risky than simply not doing anything or pretend that the changes will not affect us.