Nov 14, 2005

The passing of an era

Peter Drucker passed away yesterday.

Arguably the person who had the maximum impact on management and business in the last 100 years, Peter Drucker was a person who had the visionary's thought and the simplicity to go along with it. Dr. Shukla pointed out to this brilliant piece of writing in which he writes about the seven experiences that shaped his attitude to life and work. I think all of us should embrace these philosophies to make our life meaningful in some way!

I had no idea what I would become, except that I knew by that time that I was unlikely to be a success exporting cotton textiles. But I resolved that whatever my life's work would be, Verdi's words would be my lodestar. I resolved that if I ever reached an advanced age, I would not give up but would keep on. In the meantime I would strive for perfection, even though, as I well knew, it would surely always elude me.

I have done many things that I hope the gods will not notice, but I have always known that one has to strive for perfection even if only the gods notice.

Gradually, I developed a system. I still adhere to it. Every three or four years I pick a new subject. It may be Japanese art; it may be economics. Three years of study are by no means enough to master a subject, but they are enough to understand it. So for more than 60 years I have kept on studying one subject at a time. That not only has given me a substantial fund of knowledge. It has also forced me to be open to new disciplines and new approaches and new methods--for every one of the subjects I have studied makes different assumptions and employs a different methodology.

I have set aside two weeks every summer in which to review my work during the preceding year, beginning with the things I did well but could or should have done better, down to the things I did poorly and the things I should have done but did not do. I decide what my priorities should be in my consulting work, in my writing, and in my teaching. I have never once truly lived up to the plan I make each August, but it has forced me to live up to Verdi's injunction to strive for perfection, even though "it has always eluded me" and still does.

Since then, when I have a new assignment, I ask myself the question, "What do I need to do, now that I have a new assignment, to be effective?" Every time, it is something different. Discovering what it is requires concentration on the things that are crucial to the new challenge, the new job, the new task.

To know one's strengths, to know how to improve them, and to know what one cannot do--they are the keys to continuous learning.

First, one has to ask oneself what one wants to be remembered for. Second, that should change. It should change both with one's own maturity and with changes in the world. Finally, one thing worth being remembered for is the difference one makes in the lives of people.