EVERY self-respecting manage today strives “to get the right things done” rather than merely doing things right. This dictum was introduced by Peter Drucker almost three decades ago in the now classic management book, “The Effective Executive.” After authoring numerous books on management, economic politics, society, fiction and even the autobiography. Drucker endures as one of the most credible and relevant management analyst in these fast-changing times, the guru of all gurus on management.
Thus, it is with some excitement that one leafs through his latest book. “Managing for the Future” to discover new gems amidst a plethora of management concepts. One discovers though that the book is really not a book but a collection of essays and articles that have already been published in various newspapers and journals over a span of five years, form 1986 to 1991, though one initially will be disappointed that these are not new materials in the strictest sense of the word, this collection surprisingly presents an integrated whole that tracks and predicts, developments in the world economy, people, management, and organization.
Keen Sense of Future
It shows Drucker’s keen sense of the future even though he has been writing on developments in the management field from the time most executives today were merely babies.
For example, in a chapter on People, Work, and the Future of the City, he explains why the traffic means in big cities cannot be untangled despite the billions spent on its resolution. Undoubtedly, the server traffic clogging’ that characterizes most urban areas, whether in developed or developing countries, represents the single most powerful deterrent to increased productivity at work, stretches the limits of family relations and adversely affects the environment.
Drucker believes traffic is the natural consequence of the ability to move people which was made possible in the nineteenth century when railroads, the omnibus, the streetcar, the automobile, the subway, the elevated train, and the elevator were created. It enabled the setting up of large organizations in cities were masses of people had to go to work.
However, with the increasing population and growing economy, this situation has reach a point where despite city planning and efficient public transportation, travel time to and from the office is now getting longer and longer. Drucker observes that in the world’s big cities, this is the norm.
Demonstrating a kind of thinking that is revolutionary in its simplicity and perspective, Drucker writers: “…none of this is necessary any more indeed, commuting to office work is obsolete. It is now infinitely easier, cheaper and faster to do what the nineteenth century could not do: move information, and with it office work, to where the people are.” In other words, “Office work, rather than office workers, will to the travelling.”
Drucker says that “the tools to do so are already here: the telephone, two-way video electronic mail, the fax machine, the personal computer, the modem, and so on. And so is the receptivity; for example, the boom in fax machines…”
He disagrees, however, with the concept of the “electronic cottage.” He says that people prefer working with other people and that there will be arise of the “office park” and “back-office operations” in the suburbs. Instead of working in the home, the worker can work in an office park near their residence where all the facilities of work are set up. This is the similar to the concept of putting up shopping malls in the suburbs. Big corporations can also elect to move parts of their operations in the suburbs and just maintain headquarter offices in the big cities. Drucker cities as an example Citibank which move from its Wall Street Address to Delaware, operates its credit cards from North Dakota, does checks clearing in upstate New York and Delaware, moves data processing across the Hudson to suburban New Jersey.
Drucker says that even universities can transmit knowledge with the help of modern telecommunications rather than ask students to go to the campus. He recounts that he gives lectures to more than 10,000 students with fewer than 100 in a classroom and the rest linked to the class via satellite in “downlinks.” Interaction is done via telephone.
Tomorrow is Here
In the very first chapter of the book written in 1989, Drucker emphasizes that the future is already around us. He points to nascent trends in the world economy and shifts in international politics and policies that that are inevitability turning the course of the future now.
In the arena of the business, he also notes the reshaping of the companies and new perspectives in the governance of the companies. Drucker predicts that “Business tomorrow will follow two new rules. One: to move work where the people are, rather than people to where the work is. Two: to farm out activities that does not offer opportunities for advance into fairly senior management and professional positions… to an outside contractor. The corporations, in stock market jargon, will be unbundled.”
It is unfortunate though that so many organizations refuse to recognize the within the present and continue to operate their businesses in much the same way as before as if the future is a hazy distant unreachable horizon. These companies may do well to look to Drucker, who even if he belongs to the pioneering age of management science, is continually learning to effectively guide us to the future. Managing for the future certainly means nurturing its seeds in the present.
Managing for the Future By Peter F. Drucker
Truman Talley Books/Dutton, USA 1992, 370 pages
Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer November 17, 1997
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