Joe’s Journal: On the Spirit of Performance

“A manager has the task of creating a true whole that is larger than the sum of its parts. One analogy is the task of the conductor of a symphony orchestra, through whose effort, vision and leadership individual instrumental parts become the living whole of a musical performance. But the conductor has the composer’s score; he is only interpreter. The manager is both composer and conductor.”

–Peter F. Drucker

I’ve had opportunities to think about this idea of Peter Drucker’s a lot lately. This past summer I participated in an engaging teleconference with scientists in Krakow, Poland, who were also interested in examining performance and productivity in organizations. Drucker wrote quite a bit in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices about the idea of “the spirit of performance,” which “in a human organization,” he said, “means that it’s energy output is greater than the sum of the efforts put in. It means the creation of energy.”

[EXPAND More]What I think is really significant is that he went on to say, “To get out more than is being put in is possible only in the moral sphere.”

By invoking the term “moral sphere,” Drucker wasn’t coming from a religious or preaching perspective. Rather, he was saying that it’s possible to reach a high level of performance only within a sphere that is ruled by, and conforms to, ethical practices and norms. He believed that management was a moral science.

As I met with the scientists from Poland, I thought a lot about my own output and my own productivity. I got some great advice about looking at the ways that I spend my time and how to better leverage that time in order to improve my performance. I was reminded that I had to be responsible for managing my time better and for identifying people on my team who might have strengths in areas where I am not so strong, and to shift those activities over to them. That way, I could better focus on the activities where my strengths lie.

What Drucker observed and instinctually noted about high-functioning organizations has been supported by the more methodical research of thinkers like Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. Collins examined many companies, and was able to quantifiably identify the elements that support greatness. More and more I am interested and excited to see Drucker’s ideas come to bear and be bolstered by the empirical evidence that is out there.

–Joe Maciariello[/EXPAND]