This book was written 50 years ago, well read and reviewed, so I’m not going to add whole lot of insight to Peter’s work. It reads like it was written yesterday, and I’ll say there are few works that I have highlighted as much as this one. It’s the frankness and interest in the development of the reader that comes across.
The book is a lot about the 20th Century knowledge worker, with some hints about the 21st Century. One of my favorite 21st Century quotes relevant to this is at the bottom of the post.
First, a few quotes I relished, below.
On Being Future Focused (or as I say, the need to live in the future)
“There’ll always be a market for an efficient buggy-whip plant,” and, “This product built this company and it’s our duty to maintain for it the market it deserves.” It’s those other companies, however, which send their executives to seminars on creativity and which complain about the absence of new products. The need to slough off the outworn old to make possible the productive new is universal. It is reasonably certain that we would still have stagecoaches— nationalized, to be sure, heavily subsidized, and with a fantastic research program to “retrain the horse”— had there been ministries of transportation around 1825.
Drucker, Peter F. (2017-01-24). The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 120). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Outside of Victorian novels, happiness does not come to the marriage of two people who almost got married at age 21 and who then, at age 38, both widowed, find each other again. If married at age 21, these people might have had an opportunity to grow up together. But in seventeen years both have changed, grown apart, and developed their own ways.The man who wanted to become a doctor as a youth but was forced to go into business instead, and who now, at age fifty and successful, goes back to his first love and enrolls in medical school is not likely to finish, let alone to become a successful physician.
Drucker, Peter F. (2017-01-24). The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 122). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The lesson doctors also learn in the journey to leadership
When General Eisenhower was elected president, his predecessor, Harry S. Truman, said: “Poor Ike; when he was a general, he gave an order and it was carried out. Now he is going to sit in that big office and he’ll give an order and not a damn thing is going to happen.”
Drucker, Peter F. (2017-01-24). The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 158). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
On the need to actually see what’s happening
With the coming of the computer this will become even more important, for the decision-maker will, in all likelihood, be even further removed from the scene of action. Unless he accepts, as a matter of course, that he had better go out and look at the scene of action, he will be increasingly divorced from reality. All a computer can handle are abstractions. And abstractions can be relied on only if they are constantly checked against the concrete. Otherwise, they are certain to mislead us. To go and look for oneself is also the best, if not the only, way to test whether the assumptions on which a decision had been made are still valid or whether they are becoming obsolete and need to be thought through again. And one always has to expect the assumptions to become obsolete sooner or later. Reality never stands still very long. Failure to go out and look is the typical reason for persisting in a course of action long after it has ceased to be appropriate or even rational.
Drucker, Peter F. (2017-01-24). The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 159). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The tragic, and shining example of this is the National Health Service’ Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal – an estimated 400-1,200 deaths, in a place awash with data but not people seeing what was actually happening.
Being present saves lives.
Effectiveness in the 21st Century
…there is no inherent reason why decisions should be distasteful— but most effective ones are.
Drucker, Peter F. (2017-01-24). The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 176). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Peter Drucker operated in a (cis-gender, heterosexual, white) male-dominated business world, which we now understand brought with it tremendous limitations in terms of growth, profitability, and success of the organizations so led.
Equality equals health. It equals effectiveness also. Diversity also allows the human species to survive 🙂 .
The social movements of our time have demonstrated the additional creativity, courage, and effectiveness that comes from the non-traditional, out-of-the way places. Everyone is necessary, and the computer as described accurately 50 years ago, has limitations. (My favorite quote about that, from 1966, is at the bottom of this post)
Drucker presages that reality:
We will have to satisfy both the objective needs of society for performance by the organization, and the needs of the person for achievement and fulfillment.
Drucker, Peter F. (2017-01-24). The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 192). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
And the leaders of our time exemplify it
You know one thing for sure: If you’re a woman and you’re effective, you will be a target,” Pelosi said. “It isn’t a problem for me, because I care more about being effective than I care about being a target.”Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (2013)