On Management And Metrics

Speaking of Management: Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker analyzed how General Motors was run in the 1940’s, essentially defining management as a term. He wrote a number of books, published an incredible number of articles in the Harvard Business Review, and has a Graduate School of Management named in his honor. More importantly, Drucker defined the term “Knowledge Worker”, and made it clear that the knowledge worker of tomorrow would have more authority and scope of responsibility than the factory foreman of yesterday. Every MBA I have ever met has had to read something by Peter Drucker at some point in graduate school. I read The Practice Of Management several years ago (and have re-read it quite a bit) and, while it’s a little thick and a little dry, I found it absolutely wonderful.

So last week I started reading Drucker’s Magnum Opus – Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices weighing in at 819 pages. You’ll never guess what I found about thirty pages in:

The measurements which give us productivity for the manual worker, such as number of pieces turned out per hour or per dollar of wage, are irrelevant if applied to the knowledge worker. There are few things as useless and unproductive as the engineering department which with great dispatch, industry, and elegance turns out the drawings for an unsalable product. Productivity with respect to the knowledge worker is, in other words, primarily quality.

So there you have it. The very inventor of our modern concepts of management and knowledge work writes that metrics can miss the whole point – in 1973!

Go figure.

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