Peter Drucker: His Legacy to Modern Management (Part II)

Dec 20, 05

This Month

This month’s article talks about the trends at the work place as envisaged by Peter Drucker. We can actually see some of the issues that he talked about more than thirty years ago happening at the workplace today.

I hope you’ve managed to grab some his books to soak up the wisdom he has shared. If not, do not wait till next year!

Greetings of the season and Best wishes for a Great Year ahead!

Warm wishes,


Part II: Future Trends at the workplace

1. Split Careers
With careers spanning from 20 to 70, organizations will see two distinct groups at the workplace, namely those below 50 and those over 50. Peter Drucker believes that longevity will be one of the reasons for the split in the job market. “A 50-year working life – unprecedented in human history – is simply too long for one kind of work.” It means that organizations need to recognize that those over 50 will be in good physical and mental shape to contribute as knowledge workers. It would also mean that women who will form a significant percentage of the knowledge workforce will be in a position to take time off to be with their children over a significant period and still be able to return to the workforce.

Organizations will first and foremost have to begin to recognize and accept the fact that employees will not necessarily have a single career. Organizations will have to looks at ways in which not only the young but also the older age group employees are able to contribute significantly, their careers and expectations will have to be managed differently.

What kind of policies should organizations create that can tap into the skills and experience of senior people? Peter Drucker believes that “highly skilled and educated older people, instead of being retired, might be offered a choice of continuing relationships that convert them into long-term “inside outsiders”, preserving their skill and knowledge for the enterprise and yet giving them the flexibility and freedom they expect and can afford.”

2. Meaningful Work
The challenge for organizations in the future will be to motivate people who are comfortable and competent in their jobs, yet no longer find it challenging? According to Peter Drucker, “a growing number of highly successful knowledge workers of both sexes – business managers, university teachers, museum directors, doctors – ‘plateau’ in their 40s. They know they have achieved all they will achieve. If their work is all they have, they are in trouble.”

Peter Drucker recommends strongly that people develop interests, a non-competitive life and community outside their work that allows them to contribute and achieve in areas outside their work life.

Many organizations recognizing the importance of providing meaning and an opportunity for personal fulfilment provide avenues such as paid sabbaticals and time offs. This will increase significantly in the years ahead.

3. Nature of the workforce
Contract staff, temporary staff, semi-retired employees, specialists, freelancers will constitute a significant number in an organizations work force. Organization policies continue to be designed where it is assumed that “the workforce is still largely made up of people who are employed by the enterprise and work full-time for it until they are fired, quit, retire or die.” Yet almost two-fifths of the people who work in many organizations today are not employees and do not work full-time.

It is also a fallacy to think that “the most desirable and least costly employees are young ones.” Older employees have had to make way for younger and supposedly cheaper and more productive employees. Yet, results of such a policy have not provided any benefits and also in the years to come, the demographic shifts will make such a policy “self defeating and expensive”.

4. The knowledge society and its repercussions on society
Peter Drucker calls the ‘knowledge society’ as an employee society where most knowledge workers will work for most if not all their lives as ’employees’. Some of the concerns and challenges that he shares are the increased mobility in terms of what one does, where one lives and also affiliation also means lack of ‘roots’. Increased competition will allowing for increase in successes also means that there are more people who can fail or at the very least ‘come second’.

While neither the government nor the employing organization can take care of the social challenges of the knowledge society, there will therefore be a new and separate social sector. He believes that “the more satisfying one’s knowledge work is, the more one needs a separate sphere of community activity.”

So, what will the future hold?

Peter Drucker says “it (is) by no means certain what the next society or economy will look like. That we are still in the throes of a transition.” Yet it certain, that “the centre of gravity, and the centre of power, will be the customer. In the last thirty years, the centre of power has shifted from the supplier, the manufacturer, to the distributor. In the next thirty years, it will certainly shift to the customer – for the simple reason that the customer now has full access to information worldwide.”

To an individual in the knowledge era, it means training, re-training and ‘relearning’ of already schooled adults.

Suggestion of the Month

My new Year wish to you all:

“Whatever you must do, or dream you can do, begin it. Do it now. Action has genius, power, and magic in it.”
– Johann Wolfang von Goethe



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