The fundamental task of management is to “make people capable of joint performance through common goals, common values, the right structure, and the training and development they need to perform and respond to change.” – Essential Drucker
Why did the Allies win World War 2? They had longer supply lines, a smaller population, and lower production of war material. For Drucker, the victory was because of management. The Allies won because they could make better use of the resources they had.
The Essential Drucker a collection of some Drucker’s key essays and ideas, conveniently collected into a single book. It is an old book, and at some points that shows, particularly in the examples he uses. An amazing number of modern management books just recycle his ideas, though. In part, that’s because of Drucker’s tremendous span: the book covers management in the broadest possible way, from managing yourself and your time to large organizations and even society. The book goes from arguing management is a liberal art to suggesting the single largest reason for an organization’s decline is a failure to innovate; that if someone doesn’t perform, it is the failure of the person who put them in the wrong place, not the failure of the person who is there; and that effectiveness is only poorly correlated with intelligence.
Perhaps the strongest chapter for me was the one on managing your own time. Drucker argues most of us have no idea how we spend our time. He suggests everyone should allocate a week to keep a time diary, recording exactly what activities they spend their time on. It’s a surprise. When you know how your time is spent, though, you can make it more effective. Rather than spending 15 minutes on something here and there, you can consolidate, streamline, and improve.
If you’re someone just starting in a management role, The Essential Drucker is a perfect book to begin. Broad, sweeping, and you can pick the sections you like and read the rest of Drucker’s work on the subject.