Drucker on Managing Oneself, 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.

For knowledge workers, Drucker encouraged us to ask the following questions in managing our careers.

  1. Who am I? What are my strengths? How do I work?
  2. Where do I belong?
  3. What is my contribution?
  4. How do I take the relationship responsibility?
  5. How do I plan for the second half of my life?

For the last question, Drucker suggested we think hard about this question and try to position ourselves as early as possible for the eventual move.

Why is this question important? As Drucker said before, for the first time in human history, individuals can expect to outlive organizations. Most of us can no longer expect to stay with just one organization from graduation to retirement.

Also, four or five decades in the same kind of work is too long for most people. We get bored, deteriorate, lose all joy in our work, “retired on the job,” and become a burden to ourselves and everyone around us. “Mid-life crisis” is mostly a result of boredom.

Managing our careers will increasingly require preparing ourselves for the second half of our lives. But how can we plan for it? Drucker suggested three potential approaches.

The first approach is to start a different career. Often this means moving from one kind of organization to another. People choosing this approach often have substantial skills. They know how to get work done. They need a community, the income, and, above all, the challenge.

The second approach is to develop a parallel career. Some people, especially those who are very successful in their first career, keep working in their main careers while creating for themselves a parallel job.

The third approach is to start a “social entrepreneur” endeavor. These are usually people who have been very successful in their first profession. They love what they do, but it no longer challenges them.

There are other options, of course, but there is one requirement for managing the second half of our lives. We should think about it early and begin creating it long before we enter it.

Managing ourselves will increasingly mean that we, the knowledge workers, develop a second major interest and develop it early.

Organizations come and go at an increasing rate. Organizations start and can easily end because of poor operating conditions, unfavorable business environments, or simply mergers and acquisitions. No one should expect to go very long without experiencing a serious setback in one’s career or work.

The changes and challenges of Managing Oneself may seem obvious, given today’s fast-changing environment. However, Managing Oneself is a revolution in human affairs, especially after we have grown accustomed to having organizations manage our lives.

Managing Oneself is a new mindset that requires a hard change in our thoughts and attitudes we learned from the industrial age. The new mindset demands that each knowledge worker think and behave like a chief executive officer for our own career.

Drucker on Managing Oneself, Part 4

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.

For knowledge workers, understanding the factors that influence our performance is just as important as understanding our strengths. Like our strengths, how we perform is also individualized. Another word, our personality plays a major part in determining how we perform.

Drucker suggested that, after assessing our strengths and values, we work on answering the question of “What is my contribution?” Asking and answering this question can move us from knowledge to action.

Knowledge workers will have to learn to ask: “What should my contribution be?” Only then we should ask: “Does this fit my strengths? Is this what I want to do?” And “Do I find this rewarding and stimulating?”

One more question must be asked to decide: “Where and how can I have results that make a difference?” The result should be hard to achieve and requires “stretching,” but they also must be within reach. Results also should be meaningful, visible, and, measurable.

Throughout history, few people had any choices as the task was imposed on them. These days, we have more choices than ever. Starting with the question “What should I contribute?” give us freedom. Asking the question gives freedom because it put the responsibility squarely on us to figure out how to move forward.

Because very few people achieve meaningful results by themselves, most people work with other people. To be effective in working with others, it requires us taking the relationship responsibility.

There are two parts to the relationship responsibility. The first one is to accept the fact that others are as much individuals as ourselves. To be effective, we first need to know the strengths, the performance modes, and the values of the people we work with. We then find ways to work with those elements and get the best results possible.

The second part to the relationship responsibility is to take responsibility for communications. We need to effectively communicate our strengths, our performance modes, and our values to others, so we can help them avoid the pitfalls by not capitalizing on our strengths.

Organizations and project are increasingly built on trust and connection. Trust and connection presuppose that people understand one another. Taking the relationship responsibility is there an absolute necessity.

In summary, we always need to be mindful of the questions.

  • “What I am good at?”
  • “How do I work?”
  • “What are my values?”
  • “What is the contribution I plan to concentrate on?”
  • “What are the results I should be expected to deliver?”

Learn to ask ourselves these questions iteratively, learn to find the answers for the same questions about the others, and communicate our answers to those we work with to maximize everyone’s effectiveness.

Drucker on Managing Oneself, Part 3

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.

For knowledge workers, understanding the factors that influence our performance is just as important as understanding our strengths. Like our strengths, how we perform is also individualized. Another word, our personality plays a major part in determining how we perform.

Drucker suggested we explore three questions in the quest of understanding how we perform.

  1. How do I perceive information?
  2. How do I learn?
  3. What are my values?

Am I a reader or a listener? We perceive information in different ways, and understanding our preference is crucial in being effective at what we do. The distinction between the reader and the listener is even more critical when it comes to our decision-making process. We should understand the difference and put ourselves in the best position possible to receive and process the information we need to make decisions.

Knowing the reader vs. listener preference is very much like knowing and working with our left-hand vs. right-hand preference. If we can work with our preferences, we get a better chance to amplify our effectiveness. When we work against our preferences, we stand to lose or even destroying our effectiveness.

The second thing to know how we perform is to know how we learn. There are probably several ways to learn, and, again, we will have our preferences. Some people learn by taking copious notes. Some people learn by hearing themselves talk. Some learn by doing, and some learn by reading and conceptualizing in their heads.

The above paths describe some of the ways of acquiring knowledge. There are other paths we take to learn from experience as well. Some learn better as loner, and some do better in a team setting. Some people do well under stress, and there are those who need a structured and predictable environment.

Moreover, some people perform and learn better as a decision-maker. Also, some would prefer to act as an adviser. The important thing suggested by Drucker is not to change ourselves too drastically, because that is unlikely to be successful. We should work hard to improve the way we perform and avoid putting ourselves in a situation or an environment where we will perform poorly.

Finally, Drucker reminded us that our values play the ultimate test in determining how we perform. Drucker called the values the “mirror test.” When we work in an organization with a values system that is incompatible with ours, we run a great risk of experiencing frustration and nonperformance.

Our strengths and performance are usually closely correlated. However, there is sometimes a conflict between a person’s values and the same person’s strengths. When there is a conflict between our strengths and values, we must take a close look and see where and why the discrepancies. If we do not resolve the discrepancies, we run the likely risk of low performance and low contribution.

Each one of us has something unique to offer. We all should put ourselves in the best position to perform by knowing our strengths and match them with our preferences to get the best results possible.

Drucker on Managing Oneself, 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.

Knowledge workers face drastically new demands when it comes to career development as compared to manual workers. Drucker proposed that we must ask ourselves the following questions as we work on managing our careers and work:

  • Who am I? What are my strengths? How do I work?
  • Where do I belong?
  • What is my contribution?
  • How do I take the relationship responsibility?
  • How do I plan for the second half of my life?

When it comes to performance, Drucker believed that we need to capitalize on our strengths. Drucker also believed that it is generally not productive trying to over-compensate for our weaknesses, let alone on something we are incompetent at doing.

Knowing our strengths used to be not so important, as the industrial age had well-defined career paths for people to follow. However, those industrial age career models are less applicable these days, and people have more choices in pursuing a career. Knowing our strengths become an important aspect of career management.

What should we do if we do not know what our strengths are? Drucker believed there is only one way to find out, and that tool is The Feedback Analysis.

The Feedback Analysis describes the process of a decision/action and feedback loop. Whenever we make a key decision or take a key action, we write down what we expect will happen. When the results or outcomes become available, we again record them for future references.

After a while, we would have accumulated a series of decisions/actions, the initially expected outcomes, and the final results. With a short duration, this simple procedure can tell us where our strengths are (the things we do well one). This procedure will also show us where we are not particularly competent or opportunities we missed when we did not capitalize on our strengths.

There are several actions we should take as a result of analyzing the feedback. First, we must concentrate on our strengths. Another word, we actively put ourselves in a position where our strengths can produce performance and results.

Second, we must work on improving our strengths. No skills and knowledge will be adequate forever, and we must set up opportunities to update them. The feedback analysis can show us where we need to improve our skills or to acquire new knowledge.

Third, the feedback analysis tool can help us identify areas where intellectual arrogance and lead to “disabling ignorance.” We can fall into the “disabling ignorance” trap when we strongly believe our superior talent in one area can compensate for all our weaknesses.

Drucker explained that the main reason for poor performance often is the result of simply not knowing enough of what is needed for the job. We can use the feedback tool to overcome intellectual arrogance and work on acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to make our strengths fully productive.

Finally, Drucker advocated that we waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It simply takes far more energy and far more work to improve someone from incompetence to low mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. There are many of those examples in our school system.

Instead, we should concentrate on getting even better at areas of high competence and high skill. We should put the energy, time, and resources should go into making us, competent at something, into a star performer of that same subject.

Drucker on Managing Oneself, Part 1

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.

While Peter Drucker advocated that managing the knowledge workers’ productivity will be one of the greatest managerial challenges for organizations, the same challenge applies to the knowledge workers themselves.

Workers used to be able to conduct their career with just one employing organization. They started with one organization, adapted and grew with the organization, and retire from the same organization. That is not the case anymore for many of us.

More than likely, we will outlive our employing organization due to changes in the business environment, merger and acquisition, or simply the organization going out of business. Not to mention with the change in the technologies, the structures of many professions are changing at a rapid pace these days.

As a result, knowledge workers will outlive any one employer. We will have to prepare for more than one job, more than one assignment, or even more than one career. Since the employer may not be around to provide on-going development and training, we will have to learn ways to manage ourselves and to develop our careers.

We will have to find ways to put ourselves in the best position to make a contribution and generate value. The contribution and value are the fuel that generates momentum in our career and work. We will have to learn to stay physically able and mentally alive during the fifty-year or longer working life. We will also have to learn how and when to change what we do as the environment shifts.

Knowledge workers, therefore, face drastically new demands as compared to the manual workers. Drucker asserted that we must ask ourselves the following questions:

1. Who am I? What are my strengths? How do I work?

2. Where do I belong?

3. What is my contribution?

4. How do I take the relationship responsibility?

5. How do I plan for the second half of my life? )

Drucker on Knowledge Worker Productivity, 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.

The concepts of knowledge work and manual work and their differences are intuitive. Drucker also discussed another important concept called “The Technologists.” He defined the technologists as workers who do both knowledge work and manual work.

This group includes people who perform knowledge work as their primary task and apply knowledge of the highest order. The technologists make up the majority portion of the knowledge workers. This group is also the fastest-growing group which includes occupations such as laboratory technicians, surgeons and dentists, computer programmers, and so on.

When it comes to truly advanced knowledge, Drucker believed no single country has the monopoly anymore. Only in educating technologists can the developed country still have a meaningful competitive advantage. Besides being a big part of the modern labor pool, increasing the productivity of the technologists deserves a high priority within any organization.

But what are the elements for making the technologists more effective? Drucker outlined three considerations.

First, we must ourselves the key productivity question “What is the task?” For many technologists’ work, the answer is not always obvious. If we focus solely on making the manual work portion of the technologists a little faster, better, or cheaper, we might miss the essential objective. Instead, technologists should be asking the critical question of “Who are we trying to serve and why are we doing it?”

Second, after we are clear about our task and our audience, the technologists must take the full responsibility of delivering projects to fulfill the answers. The technologists will apply their knowledge to deliver the quality and the quantity required by the projects. And only then could the technologists can be effective in organizing the manual part of the work.

Finally, organizations must treat the technologists as knowledge workers, no matter how time-consuming the manual part of their work. The organization’s focus must be on making the technologists knowledgeable, responsible, and productive.

Drucker on Knowledge Worker Productivity, Part 1

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.

In this chapter, Drucker discussed worker productivity for both manual work and knowledge work. In the 20th century, businesses focused on manual workers’ productivity and reaped a tremendous amount of benefits.

In the 21st century, Drucker believed the most valuable asset of any institution, whether for or non-profit, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.

According to Drucker, six factors can influence the knowledge worker’s productivity.

1. Knowledge workers’ productivity demands that we ask the question: “What is the task?”

While manual work productivity asks the question of “How can we do something faster and more cheaply,” the question for knowledge work should be “Who is this for and why do we want to do it?”

2. Knowledge workers must own responsibility for their productivity. Another word, knowledge workers must manage themselves with autonomy.

For manual work, the bosses and managers own the primary responsibility of keeping their worker productivity. It is the opposite of knowledge work.

3. Continuing innovation must be part of the knowledge work.

For manual productivity, doing things faster and producing things cheaper per unit are the goal. For knowledge workers, our work must be innovative by being purposeful and aiming at a leadership posture.

4. Knowledge work requires continuous learning, and equally continuous teaching on the knowledge worker’s part.

Manual worker’s productivity relies on obedience and compliance.

5. Quantity of output is not the primary productivity concern for knowledge workers.

For manual productivity, it is mostly about the quantity of output. The quality aspect of the manual work is to meet a minimum standard. Exceeding such minimum standard is welcome but not essential for manual work.

On the other hand, the productivity of knowledge work must aim first at obtaining the optimum, if not maximum, quality. Only after achieving the quality goal, we can ask ourselves the question of quantity or volume. This quality-first posture also means that the knowledge workers must think through the definition of quality for our work.

6. Finally, Drucker asserted that the productivity of knowledge workers requires that we treat the people as an “asset” rather than a “cost.”

Drucker on Information Challenges, Part 4

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 discussed the challenges of managing information in an enterprise. To run an organization that focuses on wealth creation, Drucker advocated that we must collect information about both the internal organization and the external environment. Information, as Drucker asserted, must be organized or they are still just data.

However, there is not only one right way to organize information. Every executive must decide what is the right way to organize information for their needs. Even though there is no one perfect way, Drucker did suggest three elements to look for when designing an information organizing methodology.

Key Event: The executive should decide what key events should be tracked by the information system. Drucker defined the key event as something the executive’s performance depends on and want to monitor closely.

Probability Theory: The executive should work with her team to determine what constitutes normal operational fluctuation and what are exceptional events. Applying the total quality management principles, we can leverage the probability theory to determine that is normal and what is outside the norm.

Threshold Phenomenon: The third element of information organizing methodology can help the executives connect the dots for their businesses. The threshold concept is especially helpful to the executives when a sequence of events becomes a “trend,” thus warranting the executive’s attention and potential actions.

To measure the effectiveness of an information organizing effort, Drucker suggested the ultimate test is the goal of “No Surprises.”

No information design will be perfect for all occasions, but it should serve the executives by minimizing the surprise element of the business. Before events become significant, the information system should have allowed the executive to analyze them, understand them, and take appropriate actions or make the adjustments.

In the end, Drucker advised the executives to learn two very important lessons. We need to “eliminate” data that do not pertain to the information we need, and we need to focus on the usage of information for “action.” The purpose of having information is not so much about the knowledge we can gain. It is all about being able to take the right action using the information.