Practical management lessons

Elfren Sicangco Cruz

Posted on November 13, 2012

ASIDE FROM inventing and articulating most of the leading management theories in the last century through his extensive writings, Peter Drucker, the management guru’s management guru, also conveyed many lessons through verbal interaction with his students.

Drucker’s management theories ranged from Management by Objectives to privatization; from putting the customer first to the role of the chief executive in corporate strategy; from "structure follows strategy" to "stick to the knitting"; from decentralization to the implications of the information age; and "the rise of the knowledge worker," a term he coined in 1969.

His five basic principles of management remain valid even in this new century: setting objectives, organizing, motivating and communicating, establishing measurements of performance, and developing people (Guide to Management Gurus: 1998).

A doctoral student of Drucker, William Cohen, "shares many of Drucker’s teachings that never made it into his countless books and articles; ideas that were offered to his students in classroom or informal settings." Here are some of the ideas he wrote in his book A CLASS With DRUCKER: The Lost Lessons of the World’s Greatest Management Teacher. Here is a short summary:

• What Everybody Knows is Frequently Wrong

It is wrong because people make one or two or more erroneous assumptions and then everybody else begins to accept the assumptions as truths. To use this lesson effectively, a decision-maker needs to look at the source and determine its reliability and validity. Usually this needs extensive analysis to get to the very root source.

• Self-Confidence Must be Built Step by Step

Self-confidence increases as you accomplish various tasks successfully. Do smaller and easier tasks firsts. Then progress on to more difficult tasks. Become an uncrowned performer by seeking out and volunteering for a variety of tasks, especially those you have never done before. Develop your expertise, which is a major source of confidence and power. Use positive mental imagery. Act confident and become confident.

• If You Keep Doing What Worked in the Past You’re Going to Fail.

Change is inevitable if you are going to stay successful. Be ready to instantly change everything that has made you what you are. Better yet, be a forward thinker and create your own changes and your own future.

• Approach Problems with Your Ignorance -- Not Your Experience.

While a manager may lack specific knowledge, experience or expertise at the beginning of a problem solving process, this is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, beginning with ignorance and recognizing it is possibly the best way to approach any problem to obtain an optimal solution.

• Develop Expertise Outside of Your Field to be an Effective Manager.

Certain abilities are needed by executives at the strategic level which were not developed through challenges at the tactical level. The best way is to develop these abilities by becoming experts in at least one field outside of your profession. If you are in financial management, for example, then learn marketing management or be a technology expert.

• Outstanding Performance is Inconsistent with Fear of Failure.

The fear of losing your job is simply incompatible with taking responsibility and exercising the power of a manager. The best way to improve performance is to ignore this fear. Also, ethically, it is what every manager must do.

• The Objective of Marketing is to Make Selling Unnecessary.

A poor marketing strategy (4P’s) cannot be overcome by good implementation or marketing tactics; marketing strategy is the governing aspect. Marketing and selling are neither synonymous nor necessarily complementary. The objective of marketing (and, therefore, marketing strategy) is to make selling superfluous. Also, selling and marketing can be adversarial.

• You Cannot Predict the Future, But You Can Create It.

Stop worrying about the future. Do not focus on why you cannot do something. Instead, decide what your objectives are, look at the resources you need, and do a situational analysis. Then go from there and take action. Others have created their future, and so can you.

• We are All Accountable.

Everyone in a corporation is responsible and accountable for various aspects of the success of any of the organization’s endeavours. Executives cannot avoid this accountability when they have the ability to take action which avoids a threat, solves a problem or takes advantage of an opportunity. Middle managers cannot avoid accountability even when it springs from an action that might have been taken by their boss. Accountability is enhanced by means of a written charter and attention to communications both by boss and employees.

• You Must Know Your People to Lead Them.

Know what’s going on in your organization every day. Help those who need help. Get help from those who can supply help. Discover the real problems. Uncover opportunities you don’t know existed. Praise and recognize those that need it. Get your word out fast. Communicate your vision for the organization. Ensure everyone understands your goals and objectives.

• People Have No Limits, Even After Failure.

If a manager is not performing, he or she needs to be relieved. But it is not always necessary to fire the manager due to failure if there is an equally challenging job available at which the manager will be successful. Find something to put him or her in until you do. Don’t waste individuals who have previously done well over a long period of time due to one job failure. Once the right person is in the job, it is still your responsibility to get the person off to the right start.

• Base Your Strategy On the Situation, Not on a Formula.

There are three key aspects of any situation the manager must take into account. There are fixed variables of the environment over which the strategist have very little control, along with the resources already available or those that could be obtained. The other aspects are the variables which the strategist could always exercise control and which could support the strategy decided upon. Finally there are the principles which he knows intuitively and applies unconsciously. Knowing these principles, we can then apply them to any strategic situation for success -- not by formula or computer simulation, but by thinking through each issue as it is presented.

There will always be many management lessons that cannot be found in management books or articles. Wisdom is transmitted not only through the written word but also the sharing of life experiences.

Dr. Elfren S. Cruz is a professor of Strategic Management at the MBA Program, Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University. Please send comments or questions to elfrencruz@gmail.com