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Management Insight for the Next Millennium

John Makulowich

By John Makulowich

It is only fitting to close out this year with a suggested reading from the management master himself, Peter Drucker. Just 90 years old, he recently authored a new book, "Management Challenges for the 21st Century."

While his fascination with all things technological proceeds apace, Drucker's book offers a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect on the effects of technology. But it also presents a different view of the future, one with currents now winding their way through the fabric of societies worldwide.

For example, what Drucker calls the most important single new certainty is the "collapsing birthrate in the developed world." Among the surprising effects are that "for the next 20 or 30 years, demographics will dominate the politics of all developed countries."

Further, there is the strong possibility that retirement age will have to increase in the not-too-distant future to 79.

There are robust management insights contained in the six chapters of this slim volume by the avowed "social ecologist," yet those I found most rewarding for the executive of tomorrow interested in productivity are found in Chapter 6, "Managing Oneself."

In his simple prose, Drucker manages to probe the depths of different organizations, from government agencies, through hospitals and universities, to the standard corporation, highlighting the areas where improvement is needed.

One key lesson that comes across is that in the age of the knowledge worker that is now dawning, a critical skill will be the ability to manage oneself. What that amounts to and the process for pursuing it are the subject of that chapter.

Drucker believes that the period we enter will place new demands on the individual, that is, the knowledge worker.

He addresses those demands by raising five issues that knowledge workers must face:

? Who am I? What are my strengths? How do I work?

? Where do I belong?

? What is my contribution?

? The need to take relationships responsibility.

? The need to plan for the second half of your life.

Among the techniques Drucker described to cover these issues are two worth noting: the feedback analysis and the secret of managing the boss.

In the first, Drucker suggested that whenever we make a key decision or whenever we perform a key action, we write down what we expect to happen. Then, nine to 12 months later, we seek feedback from results to expectations.

Not only has Drucker done this for the last 15 to 20 years, but it is a technique that goes back to the 14th century.

The second technique, the secret to managing the boss, is to find and act on the answers to three questions:

? What are his or her strengths?

? How does he or she work and perform?

? What are his or her values?

To contact John Makulowich, send e-mail to; his Web address is

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