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Drucker question and answer session on the management of today's unexpected workforce
Peter F. Drucker
Richard R. West
Date Created and/or Issued
Publication Information
The Drucker Institute
Contributing Institution
Claremont Colleges Library
Drucker Archives
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For permission to use this item, contact The Drucker Institute,
Peter F. Drucker continues his question and answer session following his lecture on the management of today’s unexpected workforce. On a question concerning staff-line movement, Drucker predicts, first, that staff will be used in the future much less than in the past. He goes on to recommend that employees, early in their career, get both operating and staff exposure, in part to find out where they belong, as well as to gain enough operating experience to be seriously considered for a senior position. Drucker then states that, if he were thirty-five, he would not want to be in a staff job more than three years. He comments that the U.S. has gone very far in adopting the successful Prussian model in its large companies, and argues that it’s time to go back to the model in which everyone is being put into a line-operating job. Work will have to be done on productivity, but Drucker repeats the need for workers to advance out of staff positions. Responding to another question, he comments that one of the problems of today in large companies is that so many people are so far away from results, and results are necessary in any organization. As it pertains to a question on the human resource function in organizations, and how it should be viewed constructively instead of negatively, Drucker states that, basically, the ultimate control of an organization is a people decision, and if the people are, ultimately, part of the problem, then perhaps standard human resource procedure is not the right way to operate. He goes on to predict that, within ten years, human resources will largely become a line function in American industry, and that human resources will take on three things that it has never done before, namely, getting into the design of jobs, being the department where job decisions come together, and auditing how people are managed. Drucker then takes a question from moderator Richard West concerning how to make sure that, in an organization, employees that are “grasshoppers”--that is, those that change jobs frequently--do not jeopardize the long-term goals and prosperity of a company by any short-term decision-making tendencies. Drucker responds by invoking the teachings of a fellow scholar concerning budgets, stating that organizations require two budgets, an operating budget and a smaller budget that has long-range goals. Top managements, he says, are paid to think through the balances of short-term versus long-term investment and expenditure. On a question concerning the development of human resource persons as CEOs, Drucker responds that personnel people have themselves to blame because he notes that there has often been resistance in line workers taking operating jobs. Additionally, there has been resistance on the part of boards to put people into senior positions that have not had operating experience. As it pertains to the topic of service workers and their advancement, Drucker states that the key is not to focus on their advancement, but on the dignity of the work itself, as well as the pay. Making the work more productive is the challenge for service work. Knowledge and manual work pose the greatest challenges, moving forward. On the topic of unions and unionization, traditionally, unions were based on blue-collar work. However, over the long range, the future of unions will be with the service workers, and they will be somewhat different unions. Whether such unions will be productivity-conscious is an issue that may arise. Drucker concludes by cautioning that Japan was all but destroyed by militant unionism in the early 1950s, emphasizing that it is important to realize the power of unions.
Drucker, Peter F. (Peter Ferdinand), 1909-2005
New York University
New York University. Graduate School of Business Administration
Management by objectives
Human resources
West, Richard R., 1938-
Service (in industry)
Manual work
Manual workers
Knowledge workers
Unions, Trade
Blue collar workers
Staff-line movement
Work experience
Career advancement
Line-operating work
Work results
Short-term goals
Long-term goals
Service workers
Original recording, April 25, 1990; Drucker Archives; Box 68
Drucker Archives -

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