Drucker Forum 2014 shows the need for The Churning


Peter Drucker was the original management guru.

A two-day management conference held in his name finished last week in Vienna.

The key takeaways from the conference (highlighted in this article) provide a good opportunity for us to review the current pulse of leadership priorities. What are the top concerns identified by the managers and management gurus of today? (And how useful and relevant is The Churning in addressing those?)

Summing up the two days, the author of the article says: “I feel as though I have been attending two different conferences. One conference was… about “the beginning of the end.” The other conference was about “the end of the beginning.””

This is exactly the message of The Churning. One chapter explicitly deals with how to manage the emotional transitions that arise during any such change from an old regime to the new. The aim of the book as a whole is is to provide leadership tools for success in the new era.

So how well does it do?

Four critical dimensions

As the old economy dies and the new ‘creative economy’ comes into being, the conference brought into focus four key dimensions that highlight on the one hand the leadership failings of the old economy, and at the opposite extreme the behaviours needed for success under the new conditions.

The problems with the old-style firms are:

  1. Lack of Managerial Ambition:
    Old-economy managers, it was suggested, are suffering from a disease called ADD, or Ambition Deficit Disease.
  2. A Failure of Imagination:
    Managers were unable to imagine, let alone implement, an organisation that could inspire its employees or could keep up with the accelerating pace of change.
  3. Interlocking goals, practices and metrics, built around the wrong target
    Because of this interlocking, attempts to change one part of the organisation are hamstrung when the other parts remain aligned with the old goals and culture.
  4. Fear of the Future:
    “The future seemed to be something dark and menacing, just around the corner, and ready to destroy everything we hold dear.”

The key factors for success in the new economy are to display behaviours at the other extreme of the same axes or spectra:

  1. Bold Goals:
    Managers in the emerging creative economy are “moving into the future, … prudently taking risks, … inspiring their employees, … nurturing their cultures, … in touch with their customers… These managers have both courage and ambition.”
    The inner leadership section of The Churning contains chapters specifically on inspiring employees and nurturing culture (Chapters 6 and 7). The half of the book on outer leadership contains tools for managing risk (Chapter 4) and understanding customers (Chapters 1 and 2).
  2. Managers in the Creative Economy know that the future is already here:
    “They are already running organizations that seek to inspire all the talents and capacities of their employees. They are creating goals that employees believe in and are passionate about. They are running organizations where everyone is a manager and a leader.”
    The whole of The Churning is built around these principles. Specifically, Chapters 6 and 7 of inner leadership are about building an organisation that focuses on these priorities.
  3. Integrated goals, measures and practices:
    “Organizations in the Creative Economy are held together by the compatibility of the goals, metrics and practices, which fit together and interlock… a kind of invisible link that holds them in place.”
    The Churning
    provides an integrated set of practices for developing an inspiring vision and then for aligning and managing the organisation to achieve that vision.
  4. A positive view of the future:
    “Managers in the Creative Economy are embracing, and working in harmony with, the future. They know that the opportunities are … vast.”
    Chapter 3 of inner leadership explicitly describes how to see challenges as opportunities. Chapter 4 is about choosing the best one, and Chapter 6 converts it into an inspiring vision.

It seems The Churning is addressing the top priorities identified during the conference.

But other useful aspects in The Churning were not mentioned:

  • Inner leadership also asks leaders to identify their purpose and values and to align their vision with those. This is part not only of inspiring employees, but also connecting with customers. It bridges the two.
  • Inner leadership also provides tools for handling stress and making sense of difficult situations. This was not mentioned explicitly, but seems useful in a time when one era is coming to a close and another is beginning.
  • In the section on outer leadership, tools are provided not only for understanding customers but for making sense of the organisation’s complete strategic position.
  • Tools are provided not only for managing risks but also for prioritising and developing opportunities, and enabling radical transformation of the business (as required).

The businesses world is undergoing a massive transformation and it seems The Churning addresses the key leadership priorities and more.

Many organisations are already embracing the creative economy. For the rest, The Churning will provide a practical blueprint for how to not only develop an inspiring vision, but also a focused, lean, scalable methodology for putting that vision into practice.

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