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Monday, March 7, 2011

A note to my fellow knowledge workers

The following are some lines selected from the book: The Essential Drucker by management guru Peter F. Drucker. In this book Drucker tries to give the managers, executives and professionals of tomorrow the understanding of both the society and economy they inherit, and the tools to perform the tasks with which the next society and the next economy will confront.

The Knowledge Worker

Effectiveness must be learned
•The knowledge worker is, first of all, expected to get the right things done. And this means simply that the knowledge worker is expected to be effective.
•High intelligence is common enough among knowledge workers. Imagination is far from rare. The level of knowledge tends to be high. But there seems a little correlation between a man’s effectiveness and his intelligence, his imagination, or his knowledge.
•Intelligence, imagination and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.
Why we need effectiveness?
•Effectiveness is specific technology of knowledge worker within an organization.
•Knowledge worker, the person who puts to work what he has between his ears rather than brawn of his muscles or the skill of his hands.
•Working on the right things is what makes the knowledge work effective. This is not capable of being measured by any of the yardsticks for manual work.
•Knowledge workers cannot be supervised closely or in detail. They can only be helped. But they must direct themselves, and they must do so toward performance and contribution, that is towards effectiveness.
•One can indeed never be sure what the knowledge worker thinks and yet thinking is his or her specific work; it is knowledge workers “doing”
•The motivation of knowledge worker depends on him being effective, on him being able to achieve. If effectiveness is lacking in his work, his commitment to work and to contribution will soon wither, and he will become time server going through motions from nine-to-five.
•The greatest wisdom not applied to action and behavior is meaningless data.

Who is an executive?
•Every knowledge worker in modern organization is an “executive” if, by virtue of his position or knowledge, he or she is responsible for a contribution that affects the capacity of organization to perform and to obtain results.
•He may be overridden; he may be demoted or fired. But so long as he has the job, the goal, the standards, and the contributions are in his keeping.
•Knowledge work is not defined by quantity. Neither is knowledge work defined by its cost. Knowledge work is defined by its results.
•Throughout every one of our knowledge organizations, we have people who manage no one yet are executives.
•Peter Drucker has called “executives” those knowledge workers, managers or individual professionals who are expected by virtue of their position or their knowledge to make decisions in normal course of their work that have impact on performance and result of the whole.
•Executives should plan, organize, integrate, motivate and measure.

Executive realities: Unless the executives work at being effective, the realities of their situation will push them into futility.
•The executive’s time tends to belong to everybody else.
•Executives are forced to keep on “operating” unless they take positive action to change the reality in which they live and work.
•Third reality is pushing the executives toward ineffectiveness is that he is within an “organization”. This means that he is effective only if and when other people make use of what he contributes. Each has to be able to use what others produce.
What happens inside an organization is efforts and cost. To speak of “profit center” in a business as we are wont to do is polite euphemism. There are only effort centers. The less an organization has to do produce results, the better it does its job.

An organization is an organ of the society and fulfills itself by the contribution it makes to the outside environment.

Outside changes to an organization have to be perceived they cannot be counted, defined, or predicted.

The promise of effectiveness
•A senior executive, we are told, should have extraordinary abilities as an analyst and as a decision maker. He or she should be good at working with people and at understanding organization and power relations, be good at mathematics and have artistic insights and creative imagination.
•If one cannot increase the supply of a resource, one must increase its yield. And effectiveness is one tool to make the resources of ability and knowledge yield more and better results.

Can effectiveness be learned?
•A knowledge worker who by definition has no authority other than that of knowledge must himself be effective – or else his nothing.
•The most effective knowledge worker depends on people with the organization to get things done.
•Their effectiveness therefore determines in the last analysis whether a knowledge worker contributes and achieves results, or whether he is pure “cost center” or at best a court jester.
•Effectiveness, in other words, is a habit; that is, a complex of practices. And practices can always be learned.

Focus on contribution
•The effective person focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward towards goals. He asks, “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?” His stress is on responsibility.
•The great majority of people tend to focus downward. They are occupied with efforts rather than the results. They worry over what the organization and their superiors “owe” them and should do for them. And they are conscious above all of the authority they “should have.” As a result, they render themselves ineffectual.

Own Commitment
•To ask, “what can I contribute?” is to look for the unused potential in the job. And what is considered excellent performance in a good many positions if often but a pale shadow of the job’s full potential of contribution.
•Knowledge workers who do not ask themselves, “what can I contribute?” are only likely to aim too low, they are likely to aim at the wrong things. Above all, they may define their contribution too narrowly.
•The next generation of knowledge workers should take for granted what the hard work and dedication of this generation has accomplished. They should then, stand the baseline for the generation after them.
•The most common cause for failure is inability or unwillingness to change the demands of a new position. The knowledge worker who keeps on doing what he has done successfully before he moved is almost bound to fail.

Contribution of knowledge
•Knowledge workers do not produce a “thing”. They produce ideas, information, and concepts. The knowledge worker, moreover, is usually a specialist. In fact, he can, as a rule, be effective only if he has learned to do one thing very well, that is, if he has specialized.
•It is to enable the specialist to make himself and his specialty effective. This means that he must think through who is to use his output and what the user needs to know and to understand to be able to make productive the fragment the specialist produces.
•Effective people fine themselves asking other people in the organization, their superiors, their subordinates, but above all, their colleagues in other areas, “what contribution from me do you require to make your contribution to the organization? When do you need this, how do you need it, and in what form?

The right human relations
•The focus on contribution by itself supplies the four basic requirements of effective human relations
-Self development
-Development of others
•The harder the superior tries to say something to his subordinate, the more likely is that the subordinate will mishear. He will hear what he expects to hear rather than what is being said.
•What are contributions for which this organization and I, your superior, should hold you accountable? What should we expect of you? What is the best utilization of your knowledge and your ability?
•The focus on contribution leads to communications sideways and thereby makes team work possible. The question, who has to use my output for it to become effective? Immediately shows up the important people who should be communicated about the work.
•What is the most important contribution I can make to the performance of this organization? As in effect, what self-development do I need? What knowledge and skill do I have to acquire to make the contribution I should be making? What strengths do I have to put to work? What standards do I have to set for myself?
•The executive who focuses on contribution also stimulates others to develop themselves, whether they are subordinates, colleagues, or superiors. They grow according to what they consider to be achievement and attainment.

Know your strengths and values
•Workers, especially knowledge workers outlive any employer, and will have to be prepared for more than one job, more than one assignment, more than one career
What are my strengths?
•Concentrate on your strengths. Place yourself where your strengths can produce performance and results.
•Work on improving your strengths.
•Identify where intellectual arrogance causes disabling ignorance.
•Remedy your bad habits – things you do or fail to do that inhibit your effectiveness and performance. They quickly show up in the feedback analysis.
•Waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence.
•Do not try to change yourself- it is unlikely to be successful. But work, and hard, to improve the way you perform. And try not to do work of any kind in a way in which you do not perform, or perform poorly.

What are my values?
•Organizations have to have values. But so do people. To be effective in an organization, one’s own values must be compatible with the organization’s values.

Where do I belong?
•Successful careers are not “planned”. They are the careers of people who are prepared for the opportunity because they know their strengths, the way they work, and their values.

Know your time
•Effective knowledge workers do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start out with planning. They start by finding out where their time actually goes. Then they attempt to manage their time and to cut back unproductive demands on their name.
•3 step process for analyzing time:
-Recording time
-Managing time
-Consolidating time
•Everything requires time. It is the only truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people time for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.
•Effective person therefore knows that to manage his time, he first has to know where it actually goes.

Time diagnosis
•The first step toward effectiveness is therefore to record actual time-use. The specific method in which the record is put together need not be of concern.
•One has to find the nonproductive, time-wasting activities and get rid of them if one possibly can.
•First one tries to identify and eliminate the things that need not be done at all, the things that are purely waste of time without any results whatever.
•All one has to do is to learn to say no if an activity contributes nothing to one’s own organization, to oneself, or to the organization for which it is to be performed.
•The next question is, which of the activities on my time log could be done by somebody else just as well, if not better?
•Delegation, as the term is customarily used, is a misnomer in the situation. But getting rid of anything that can be done by somebody else so that one does not have to delegate but can really get to one’s own work- that is a major improvement in effectiveness.
•Common cause of time-waste is largely under the executives control and can be eliminated by him. This is the time of others he himself wastes.
•What do I do that wasters your time without contributing to your effectiveness? Is one question one should ask directly?

Pruning time wasters
•The first organizational time-waster results from lack of system or foresight.
•Time-waste often results from overstaffing.
•Another common time-waster is malorganization. Its symptom is an excess of meetings.
•The last major time waster is malfunction in information.

Effective decision making process
•The clear realization that the problem was generic and could only be solved through a decision that established a rule, a principle.
•The definition of the specifications that the answer to the problem has to satisfy, that is, of the “boundary conditions”
•The thing through what is “right”, that is, the solution that will fully satisfy the specification before attention is given to the compromises, adaptations, and concessions needed to make decision acceptable.
•The building into the decision of the action to carry it out.
•The feedback that test the validity and effectiveness of the decision against the actual course of events.

Four type of occurrences
•Is this a generic situation or an exception? Is this something that underlies a great many occurrences? Or is the occurrence a unique event that needs to be dealt with as such? The generic always has to be answered through a rule, a principle. The exceptional can only be handled as such as it comes.
•There is first the truly generic, of which the individual occurrence is only a symptom.
•Then there is the problem that, while a unique event for the individual institution, is actually generic. For these, however one has to look to the experience of others.
•Next there is the truly exceptional, the truly unique event. Truly unique events are rare, however. Whenever one appears, one has to ask, is this true exception or only the first manifestation of new genus? And this, the early manifestation of new generic problem, is the fourth and last category of events with which the decision process deals.
•By far the most common mistake is to treat a generic situation as if it were a series of unique events, that is, to be pragmatic when, one lacks the generic understanding and principle. This inevitably leads to frustration and futility.

Specification of decisions
•The second major element in the decision process is clear specification as to what the decision has to accomplish.
•What are the objectives the decision has to reach? What are the minimum goals it has to attain? What are the conditions it has to satisfy?
•The effective person knows that a decision that does not satisfy the boundary conditions is ineffectual and inappropriate.

What is right?
•One has to start out with what is right rather than what is acceptable (let alone who is right) precisely because one always has to compromise in the end. But if one does not know what to satisfy the specifications and boundary conditions, one cannot distinguish between the right compromise and the wrong compromise- and will end up by making wrong compromise.
•For there are two different kinds of compromise. One kind is expressed in the old proverb, Half a loaf is better than no bread. The other kind is expressed in the story of the judgment of Solomon, which was clearly based on the realization that half a baby is worse than no baby at all. In the first instance boundary conditions are still being satisfied. The purpose of bread is to provide food and half a loaf is still food. Half a baby, however, does not satisfy the boundary conditions. For half a baby is not half of a living and growing child. It is a corpse in two pieces.

Converting into Actions
•Converting the decision into action is the fourth major element in the decision process. While thinking through the boundary conditions is the most difficult step in decision-making, conversion the decision into effective action is usually the most time consuming one. Yet decision will not become effective unless the action commitments have been built into the decision from the start.
•Converting a decision in to action requires answering several distinct questions: Who has to know this decision? What action has to be taken? Who is to take it? And what does the action have to be so that the people who have to do it can do it?

•Finally, a feedback has to be built into the decision to provide continual testing, against actual events, of the expectations that underlie the decision.
•Futility is that lot of feedback processes just don’t function correctly.
Opinion rather than fact
•A decision is a judgment. It is a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right and wrong. It is at best a choice between “almost right” and “probably wrong” – but much more often a choice between two course of action neither of which provably more nearly right than the other.
•The effective person therefore, asks, what do we have to know to test the validity of this hypothesis? What would the facts have to be to make this opinion tenable? And he makes it a habit - himself and in the people with whom he works – to think through and spell out what needs to be looked at, studied, and tested.
•The effective decision maker assumes that the traditional measurement is not the right measurement. Otherwise, there would generally be no need for decision; a simple adjustment would do. The traditional measurement reflects yesterday’s decision. That there is need for a new one normally indicates that the measurement is no longer relevant.

Develop disagreement
•What does this fellow have to see if his position were, after all, tenable, rational, and intelligent?

Is a decision really necessary?
•One has to make a decision when a condition is likely to degenerate if nothing is done.
•Act if on balance the benefits greatly outweigh cost and risk.
•Act or do not act, but do not hedge or compromise.
•There is no inherent reason why medicines should taste horrible but effective ones usually do. Similarly, there is no inherent reason why decisions should be distasteful – but most effective ones are.
•Cowards way: All the coward achieves is to die a thousand deaths where the brave man dies but one.

Functioning Communication:
•Functioning Communication is
-Communication is perception
-Communication is expectation
-Communication makes demand
-Communication and information are different and indeed largely opposite – yet interdependent.
•Before we can communicate, we must, know what the recipient expects to see and hear.
•Where communication is perception, information is logic. As such, information is purely formal and has no meaning. It is impersonal rather than interpersonal.
•Information is always encoded. To be received, let alone to be used, the code must be known and understood by the recipient. This requires prior agreement, that is, some communication.