Rick Wartzman is the executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University. The Institute’s mission is to better society by stimulating effective management and responsible leadership. It does this, in large part, by advancing the teachings of the late Peter F. Drucker, “the man who invented management” (in the words of BusinessWeek magazine).
In addition to his duties at the Drucker Institute, Rick writes “The Drucker Difference” column for Bloomberg Businessweek online. A collection of his columns, What Would Drucker Do Now?, was published by McGraw-Hill in 2011. He’s also the editor of The Drucker Lectures: Essential Lessons on Management, Society, and Economy, published by McGraw-Hill in 2010.
Before joining the Institute, Rick worked for two decades in newspapers. He began his career at The Wall Street Journal, where he served in a variety of positions, including White House correspondent and founding editor of the paper’s weekly California section. He joined the Los Angeles Times in 2002 as business editor and, in that role, helped shape “The Wal-Mart Effect,” which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Rick later became editor of the newspaper’s Sunday magazine, West.
Rick’s book, Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, was published by PublicAffairs in 2008. It was one of the Los Angeles Times‘ 25 favorite nonfiction books of the year, as well as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in history and a PEN USA Literary Award. Rick is the co-author, with Mark Arax, of the best-seller The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, which was selected as one of the 10 best books of 2003 by the San Francisco Chronicle and one of the 10 best nonfiction books of the year by the Los Angeles Times. It also won, among other honors, a California Book Award and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.
Davide de Palma : In 1939, Drucker wrote The End of Economic Man; in 1954 wrote The Practice of Management; in 1973 wrote Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices; in 1993, wrote Post-Capitalist Society; and in 1999 Management Challenges for the 21st Century. What is the most important lesson of Peter Drucker?
Rick Wartzman : To me, Peter Drucker’s bedrock philosophy was this: We live in a society of large organizations. When those organizations are effectively managed and responsibly led, society is healthy. When they’re not, society falters.
Davide de Palma : Drucker wrote The most valuable assets of the 20th century company were its production equipment, and The most valuable asset of a 21st century institution…will be its knowledge worker. In 1959, Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker,” you believe that the management of human resources should be rethought?
Rick Wartzman : I believe it is being re-thought. We’re still in the midst of a major transition as developed economies shift from being dominated by blue-collar factory work to knowledge work. The big challenge is to figure out how to raise the productivity of knowledge workers and their poor cousins, service workers.
Davide de Palma : Which means today’s knowledge workers?
Rick Wartzman :Knowledge workers are those who use their heads more than their hands. Many jobs, though, actually involve a combination of the two. In fact, most factory positions today require not just brawn, but also certain technical skills such as proficiency with a computer.
Davide de Palma : In your opinion what are the efficient management systems?
Rick Wartzman :I care less about efficiency than effectiveness. As Drucker noted, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
Davide de Palma : In 1954, Peter Drucker in his book “The Practice of Management” speaks of Management by Objectives (MBO); but What does it mean to set a target?
Rick Wartzman :The key to Management by Objectives is that target-setting and goal-setting should come from the bottom up—from the worker to his boss—not from the top down. The boss has a responsibility to ensure the worker’s goals are reasonable and in line with the overall mission and objectives of the organization. But the whole idea behind MBO is that authority and responsibility are pushed as far down into the organization as possible.
Davide de Palma : What is the responsible leadership?
Rick Wartzman :Responsible leadership focuses on performance and results; it is not based on charisma.
Davide de Palma : The human capital management uses performance indicators. Drucker talked about the concept of measurability of all the performances. You believe that the role of mangers, Drucker was talking about, is it still relevant?
Rick Wartzman :Yes, Drucker thought that measuring results was a key to effective management. But the results that are measured must be given to managers and workers so that they can learn from them, and continuously improve their performance. Measurements shouldn’t be used as a tool to control or punish from above.
Davide de Palma : In your book you twisted you personal experiences with the wisdom of Drucker, and them What would Drucker do now?
Rick Wartzman :My new book is a collection of the columns that I write for Bloomberg Businessweek online. In these pieces, I try to tie Peter Drucker’s timeless teachings to things going on in the headlines today. It’s kind of a mind meld—his and mine.
Davide de Palma : In your opinion what is the future of Human Capital Management?
Rick Wartzman : I hope it is for more and more companies to treat their workers as assets in which to invest.
Davide de Palma : We are experiencing a crisis very strong, especially management, what do do you think the lesson to be learned?
Rick Wartzman :Business is an organ of society and therefore has a responsibility to society—not just to its shareholders.
Davide de Palma : Das Humankapital, is a blog that wants to promote the development of human capital. Do you think is important to promote the development of human capital?
Rick Wartzman : Absolutely. As Drucker put it, “No organization can do better than the people it has.”
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