Taming the Malignant Masters

Rick Wartzman

In his latest column for Bloomberg Businessweek online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman springs off this week’s news that “Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is trying to slash government red tape so small businesses in his state can flourish.”

Wartzman goes on to add that if Patrick succeeds, “and these enterprises grow, they’d then be smart to listen to Peter Drucker and start reducing the red tape elsewhere: inside their own shops.”

Indeed, Drucker believed that, when it comes to cutting red tape, companies would do well to aim the scissors at their own operations. “The businessman in the large corporation who complains the loudest about bureaucracy in government,” Drucker asserted in his 1967 book The Effective Executive, “may encourage in his own company the growth of ‘controls’ which do not control anything, the proliferation of studies that are only a cover-up for his own unwillingness to face up to a decision.”

Wartzman goes on to spell out what Drucker deemed to be the proper use of reports, procedures and forms inside an organization—and where management often goes wrong.

“Reports and procedures are necessary tools,” Wartzman quotes Drucker as writing. “But few tools can be so easily misused, and few can do as much damage. For reports and procedures, when misused, cease to be tools and become malignant masters.”