Heeding the wisdom of Peter Drucker might have helped us avoid—and will help us solve—numerous challenges plaguing communities around the world: restoring trust in business in the wake of accounting scandals and the global financial crisis; attracting and motivating the best talent without creating crippling financial commitments; addressing societal problems such as climate change, health care, and public education; dealing with trouble spots in central Asia and the Middle East.
If Peter Drucker were here today, what would he have to say about such pressing matters? His first comment might be “I told you so”—and he would have every right to say that. In remarkably prescient writings, he pointed to important trends and looming disasters. He took a broad look at the context surrounding organizations, noting jarring events he called discontinuities. Next, since the signs of difficulties ahead were there all along, he might follow up by telling us, “Look at the underlying systems.” Drucker rarely named or blamed individuals; he saw root causes in the design of organizations—in their structures, processes, norms, and routines. He would remind us that it is the responsibility of executives to challenge that design while being mindful of their companies’ ultimate purpose. Then he might finish by asking leaders a few provocative questions: “What is your mission? What should you stop doing? Where has the drive for short-term efficiencies undermined long-term effectiveness? What should be your objectives and guiding principles?”
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