The effective business, Peter Drucker observes, focuses on opportunities rather than problems. How this focus is achieved in order to make the organization prosper and grow is the subject of this companion to his classic, The Practice of Management. The earlier book was chiefly concerned with how management functions; this volume shows what the executive decision-maker must do to move his enterprise forward.
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October 03, 2006
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Excerpt from Managing for Results by Peter F. Drucker
That executives give neither sufficient time nor sufficient thought to the future is a universal complaint. Every executive voices it when he talks about his own working day and when he talks or writes to his associates. It is a recurrent theme in the articles and in the books on management.
It is a valid complaint. Executives should spend more time and thought on the future of their business. They also should spend more time and thought on a good many other things, their social and community responsibilities for instance. Both they and their businesses pay a stiff penalty for these neglects. And yet, to complain that executives spend so little time on the work of tomorrow is futile. The neglect of the future is only a symptom; the executive slights tomorrow because he cannot get ahead of today. That too is a symptom. The real disease is the absence of any foundation of knowledge and system for tackling the economic tasks in business.
Today's job takes all the executive's time, as a rule; yet it is seldom done well. Few managers are greatly impressed with their own performance in the immediate tasks. They feel themselves caught in a "rat race," and managed by whatever the mailboy dumps into their "in" tray. They know that crash programs which attempt to "solve" this or that particular "urgent" problem rarely achieve right and lasting results. And yet, they rush from one crash program to the next. Worse still, they known that the same problems recur again and again, no matter how many times they are "solved."
Before an executive can think of tackling the future, he must be able therefore to dispose of the challenges of today in less time and with greater impact and permanence. For this he needs a systematic approach to today's job.
There are three different dimensions to the economic task: (1)The present business must be made effective; (2) its potential must be identified and realized; (3) it must be made into a different business for a different future. Each task requires a distinct approach. Each asks different questions. Each comes out with different conclusions. Yet they are inseparable. All three have to be done at the same time: today. All three have to be carried out with the same organization, the same resources of men, knowledge, and money, and in the same entrepreneurial process. The future is not going to be made tomorrow; it is being made today, and largely by the decisions and actions taken with respect to the tasks of today. Conversely, what is being done to bring about the future directly affects the present. The tasks overlap. They require one unified strategy. Otherwise, they cannot really get done at all.
To tackle any one of these jobs, let alone all three together, requires an understanding of the true realities of the business as an economic system, of its capacity for economic performance, and of the relationship between available resources and possible results. Otherwise, there is no alternative to the "rat race." This understanding never comes ready-made; it has to be developed separately for each business. Yet the assumptions and expectations that underlie it are largely common. Businesses are different, but business is much the same, regardless of size and structure, of products, technology and markets, of culture and managerial competence. There is a common business reality.
There are actually two sets of generalizations that apply to most businesses most of the time: one with respect to the results and resources of a business, one with respect to its efforts. Together they lead to a number of conclusions regarding the nature and direction of the entrepreneurial job.