Peter Drucker in Fortune

peter drucker at 94….

Brent Schlender writes an article for Fortune in which 'Peter Drucker Sets Us Straight.' The following is a excerpt from that article, the balance is available by 'subscription' to Fortune's online service.

…You can always count on Peter Drucker to provide a new way of looking at things. After all, he is the man who first recognized that management is a discipline worthy of deep and formal study. Long before anyone else – in the early 1950s, no less – he predicted how computer technology would one day thoroughly transform business. In 1961 he presciently called attention to the rise of Japan as an industrial power, and two decades later he warned of its impending economic stagnation. And we can thank him for coining the concepts of “privatization,” “knowledge workers,” and “management by objective.”

At 94, Drucker is still full of insights that seem to elude others, and he is as opinionated as ever. His interests range from economics to psychology to philosophy to opera to Japanese art; his experiences include consulting with literally hundreds of companies, governments, small businesses, churches, universities, hospitals, arts organizations, and charities. To this day, leaders of all stripes make the pilgrimage to California to learn from the master, who continues to lecture at the management school that bears his name at Claremont Graduate University…

[judith meskill's knowledge notes…]

Drucker is always worth paying attention to. Here's a piece of the interview I found particularly relevant:

Nobody has really looked at productivity in white-collar work in a scientific way. But whenever we do look at it, it is grotesquely unproductive. As you know, most of my work these days is with universities and hospitals and churches, which are three of the biggest knowledge-worker employers, and their productivity is dismal. In part this is because knowledge work by definition is highly specialized, and that means that the utilization of the knowledge worker tends to be very low.

The inefficiency of knowledge workers is partly the legacy of the 19th-century belief that a modern company tries to do everything for itself. Now, thank God, we've discovered outsourcing, but I would also say we don't yet really know how to do outsourcing well. Most look at outsourcing from the point of view of cutting costs, which I think is a delusion. What outsourcing does is greatly improve the quality of the people who still work for you. I believe you should outsource everything for which there is no career track that could lead into senior management. When you outsource to a total-quality-control specialist, he is busy 48 weeks a year working for you and a number of other clients on something he sees as challenging. Whereas a total-quality-control person employed by the company is busy six weeks a year and the rest of the time is writing memoranda and looking for projects. That's why when you outsource you may actually increase costs, but you also get better effectiveness.