Back to the Drawing Board

Few countries have been as battered by the financial crisis as has Ireland. So it was heartening to join in a private dinner last week, along with other business executives, academics and representatives of civil society, to hear Prime Minister Enda Kelly proclaim that Ireland has all the good minds it needs to solve its problems. The challenge, he added, is to set this potential free across all organizations.

But is Ireland actually on such a path? Are any countries, really? I can’t help but notice that many corporations that should be role models in “unleashing the human potential” seem to fail dismally in this respect.

Indeed, a study presented at the Innovation Value Institute’s Summer Summit, held at the National Irish University the very same day as the prime minister’s dinner, underscored my feelings. Conducted in France by a group of senior executives from Schneider Electric, Air France, IBM and others (and supported by the trade unions, employer federations and chambers of commerce), the study explored why there is so much negative stress, burnout and even suicide in today’s corporate workplace.

[EXPAND More] The results were disillusioning. They showed that many of the “innovations” that companies have introduced have greatly increased the level of anxiety and disorientation among workers. Among the problems: incessant reorganizations and restructurings; new technologies that have blurred the borders of professional and private life; and financial models in which the human dimension of business is ignored.

This is certainly not the way to unlock the productive potential of knowledge workers, as envisioned by Peter Drucker.

There are exceptions, to be sure. At the same conference, for example, the CIO of Facebook credibly demonstrated that the company’s 2,000 employees really “own” their jobs; they possess a high sense of autonomy and responsibility, based on a strong understanding of their common purpose and direction.

Richard Straub

But in general, it is clear that corporate leaders must go back to the drawing board. The Global Peter Drucker Forum on November 3 and 4 in Vienna will provide an opportunity to do just that. The event will focus on restoring the legitimacy of management. Won’t you join us in figuring out how to create value not just for business but for society, too?

–Richard Straub, President, The Peter Drucker Society Europe