Peter Drucker and Managing Oneself


So, in preparation for Moshidora, I thought I’d post something about Peter Drucker.  Managing Oneself was first published in 1999 in the Harvard Business Review.   It was the first article I read from Drucker’s works.  I’d like to think of this as the most basic place to start, since to manage others you also have to know how manage yourself first.  If you’re about to graduate college or are in the early part of your career, it might help you to read a few of Drucker’s ideas.  As for me, I really wish I’d come across this piece from Drucker in college.  (Alas, I was an engineering student back then and management topics were the furthest thing from my mind.)

But first, who the hell is Drucker anyway?

From Wikipedia:

Peter Ferdinand Drucker (November 19, 1909 – November 11, 2005) was a writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist.” His books and scholarly and popular articles explored how humans are organized across the business, government and the nonprofit sectors of society. He is one of the best-known and most widely influential thinkers and writers on the subject of management theory and practice. His writings have predicted many of the major developments of the late twentieth century, including privatization and decentralization; the rise of Japan to economic world power; the decisive importance of marketing; and the emergence of the information society with its necessity of lifelong learning. In 1959, Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” and later in his life considered knowledge work productivity to be the next frontier of management.

“Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves–their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.”

So how do you know yourself?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • What Are My Strengths?
  • How Do I Perform?
  • What Are My Values?
  • Where Do I Belong?
  • What Should I Contribute?

What Are My Strengths?

Drucker advocates the use of feedback analysis.  To do this, whenever you make a key decision or action, you should write down what you expect will happen.  9-12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations.  For me, there is a problem to this, however.  You’d have to wait a long time (at most a year) for a proper evaluation of your actions/decisions.  Drucker estimates that if done consistently this will show you where your strengths lie in 2-3 years.  There are other ways like maybe asking people (like a teachers/mentors/good friends) yourself.  But of course actions/results are better barometers of strength for your self-evaluation.

Drucker mentions several implications from this feedback analysis.  The more important ones restated:

1.  Focus on your strengths and place yourself where you can use those to deliver results.
2.  You should work to improve your strengths.
3.  Remedy your bad habits.

How Do I Perform?

There are 2 questions to ask yourself:

1.  Am I a reader or a listener?
2.  How do I learn?

Answering these questions are important because each person is unique and how you perform is a matter of personality.  Some techniques for learning are good for some, but not for others.  Some people work best alone, some work best in a team.  Some work best as leaders, some work best as subordinates.

What Are My Values?

This is also important because it helps decide whether you’ll be happy and/or perform well in your chosen career/vocation or not.  Do you value money (getting rich)?  Or do you prefer helping people?  Do you value innovation or do you prefer things to be unchanged?  Your values determine whether if you will be compatible with the organization you are or will be with (or friends or even lovers).  Does your company value the work-life balance of employees?  Is your partner a spender and you a saver?  Values don’t have to be exactly the same, but may be close enough to coexist.  Sometimes values can also interfere with your strengths–you might be a good talker but wouldn’t like to manipulate people.

If this is your boss...

Where Do I Belong?

If you already know the answers to the questions What Are My Strengths?/How Do I Perform?/What Are My Values?, then deciding where you belong or do not belong is easier.  Drucker adds that successful careers are not planned.  (Jack Welch also attests to this.)  So don’t be too hot about strictly following a career plan either.

What Should I Contribute?

Drucker states you must address 3 distinct elements:

1.  What does the situation require?  You should not overdo things.
2.  Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done?
3.  What results have to be achieved to make a difference?

It should be added that results be measurable if possible.  It really is better if you can quantify your results, given the focus on stats in this modern age.  One day you can even boast about it in an interview with a possible future employer.

Other Points to Ponder

Responsibility for Relationships. It’s said that  “No man is an island.”  Most of us would have to work with other people (unless if you’re a NEET/hikkikomori).  So we have to learn to get along, and manage our relationship with difficult people (the ones who make our work life like hell).

Taking responsibility for relationships consists of 2 parts:

1.  Accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as you yourself are.  So humans will behave like humans and they have their strengths, their quirks, their values, and their own ways of getting things done.  So pay attention to both your boss and your coworkers.

2.  Take responsibility for communication.  People have different tasks and responsibilities.  Because of specialization, we are usually not in the know as to what others are usually doing (unless if you’re the curious one who talks to everyone and reads other people’s job description).  To work smoothly and productively and effectively, not only do you need to know how you do your job, but some idea of how others do theirs too.  If you don’t know how to do a certain task, wouldn’t it be easier to ask an expert about it instead of figuring it yourself?  Because sometimes figuring things yourself can take hours and waste your time.  If you’re having difficulty making a deadline, wouldn’t it be better to tell the boss/customer about the problem before the deadline passes?  You could get an extension or outside help.  If there’s a breakdown in communication there it may result to disappointment of coworkers/bosses/customers because of unmet expectations.

Good relationships make good teamwork

The Second Half of Your Life. Do the same things over and over again for years and eventually deriving further learning and challenge will be increasingly difficult.  In short, you will get bored.  The antidote is usually a second career (or a third, or fourth, etc).  For most of my readers this is probably too far off in the future.  For now all I can say is that you should have a life outside of work.  Pursue hobbies and other interests that will improve your quality of life.

In Conclusion

Drucker’s writings have been insightful (though there are also criticisms of it).  I haven’t really seriously tried feedback analysis because I am impatient or usually I forget to.  But I think it boils down to constant self-evaluation and learning.  Just because you’ve found out how you learn and what your values are doesn’t mean that’s the end.  We can always learn new skills, and well, what we value can also change over time.  Before I read Drucker’s article my career had been on auto-pilot.  Now I’m trying to salvage what remains of it, and hopefully I can get a second career in the future.  There is only one way to go but forward.  And I do hope this post gets somebody else thinking about their career too.  😀


Further reading:

Peter Drucker
Knowledge economy
Knowledge worker

For the original article you can google for Peter Drucker and Managing Oneself.  Some sentences were unmodified but I added some examples of my own according to my understanding of Drucker’s article and my own experiences.  So please read the original work for the details.

And the pics, they’re from Ookiku Furikabutte and not Moshidora.  But it’s still baseball.  Hehehe.


3 responses »

  1. I think that the idea of plant community and its subsequent failure made Drucker realize that non-profits are crucial in fulling the gap which the corporate sector has ignored in the aspect of social responsibility and performance in terms of the broader utilities.

    One of the things that have haunted me about Peter Drucker is how much he thinks about the perils of our knowledge economy in terms of yielding efficiency. Good intentions seem abound, but what of results?

    Here’s to hoping that this anime will lead to speculah about our realities today, in this knowledge economy.

  2. I’ve just finished reading the original article. It’s a great words from Drucker. I should have read it earlier in order to have better decision in my recent years. Anyway, I learn much from it for my future career. Have you read the whole “HBR’s 10 Must Read” series?

    • >>Have you read the whole “HBR’s 10 Must Read” series?

      I tried to read HBR ’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself, but I couldn’t finish it. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to.

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