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Managing in a Time of Great Change.

Peter Drucker has been called the "godfather" of modern management. For the past fifty years he has been a teacher and advisor to senior managers in business, human services organizations, and government. He has written over twenty books on management, economics, politics, and society.

In his latest book, Managing in a Time of Great Change, Drucker offers opinions about current management trends and provides a meta-analysis by placing business activity in the broader context of government, society, technology, and the world economy. More specifically, he covers such topics as the meaning and the message of the information age; the implications for business in the reinvention of government; the shifting balance of power between management and labor; the widely differing kinds of teamwork an organization can choose; the delicate relationship between America and Japan; and the promise and perils of China and other emerging powers in the Pacific region.

Drucker talks about a newly emerging group that he labels "knowledge workers," which will change the way we think about employees. Knowledge workers are formally educated or formally trained to sell their services to organizations or individuals who need particular knowledge or information. By the end of this century Drucker estimates that these workers will comprise a third of the work force. The implications of this development are not clear, but one result might be possible class conflict between knowledge workers and others in society.

Drucker believes that in our post-capitalist society managers will need to demonstrate more skills than just those that involve exerting command authority. He explains, "Management textbooks still talk mainly about managing subordinates. But you no longer evaluate executives in terms of how many people report to them. That standard doesn't mean as much as the complexity of the job, the information it uses and generates, and the different kinds of relationships needed to do the work."

His view of what you need to know at work is that, "To be information-literate, you begin with learning what it is you need to know. Too much talk focuses on the technology; even worse, on the speed of the gadget - always faster, faster. This kind of techie fixation causes us to lose track of the fundamental information in today's organization. To organize the way work is done, you have to begin with a specific job, then the information input, and finally the human relationships needed to get the job done."

Two of Drucker's views which bother me involve his glib analysis of America's War on Drugs and his faith in nonprofit organizations to effectively and efficiently deliver social services. His discussion in these areas betrays a lack of knowledge about the complexities underlying serious social problems (as is evidenced by having only one paragraph devoted to a War on Drugs thesis).

However, Drucker's polymathic analyses are generally on target more often than not and given his prolific writing I'd have to agree with Business Week that Peter F. Drucker is the most enduring management thinker of our time. And any management thinker who thinks that people are a resource not a cost; that empathy is a practical competence; and that management is a liberal art is, in my opinion, a thinker worth thinking about.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Institute of General Semantics
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Levinson, Martin H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1996
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