A Master Class on Drucker: The Presenter's Reflections

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I had the honor of hosting Corporate Learning Network's Drucker Master Class Day (March 30, 2021) as part of their Corporate Learning Week event.

Alongside me (virtually) was celebrated Drucker management guru, Dr. Bernard Jaworski, professor at the Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University, and teacher extraordinaire.

Together we took the audience through two Master classes:

  1. Leading Change: Four Drucker Prescriptions for Making Effective Change Happen
  2. Producing and Managing Successful Innovation: The Best, Most Practical Approach to Innovation and Internal Entrepreneurship Ever Created

Throughout the day, Jaworski and I discussed, in detail, why leading change is paramount at this critical time, not only in business but, in all of history. Specific prescriptions for dealing with these times include what some refer to as the ACE-I methodology. It includes four distinct steps:

  1. Abandonment of the unproductive & the obsolete
  2. Continuous productivity improvement in all areas
  3. Exploiting successes
  4. Purposeful Innovation

The first master class focused on the first three components of the methodology, while the second master class put the emphasis on innovation.  

Below are my takeaways from the presentation and some best practices that I wanted to share with the CLN readers:

Master classes 1 and 2:

The material showed how interwoven the themes of change and innovation are, and how they are both future-oriented/focused.

We discussed what might be thought of as both the micro and macro perspectives, of both organizations and individuals.

We shared Bernie’s research of the divergent fates of Blockbuster and Netflix, and its implications for leading change and the application of innovation.

A running theme throughout the day (including in the third session, the panelist roundtable) was reframing problems as opportunities.

Other Drucker-related themes we touched on: That we can’t rely on geniuses and miracle workers in running our organizations and dealing with change and innovation. Ordinary human beings have to work together productively.

Innovation and change require relentless, systematic, ongoing hard work. There is a constant ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’ aspect to this work.

We touched on how Peter Drucker role-modeled qualities needed for 21st century knowledge workers, including intense curiosity, being open-minded and acutely observant.

When dissecting how Drucker sought out information that was harder to find in his day (such as World Bank and government reports) but that are readily available online now, Bernie made the key point that information that is available to all (even if you have to pay for it) is less actionable than knowledge you’ve developed on your own, simply because it's less unique if everyone theoretically has access to it. 

Within this, Bernie mentioned the commodification of information, and the terms ‘differential intelligence,’ ‘market intelligence’ and ‘asymmetric information.’

Some key points within the theme of systematic abandonment are that this process pertains to both individuals and organizations.

You may have to stop doing things you're good at, and that you like doing, in order to have more time and capacity to pivot to something new and potentially more valuable.

Abandonment (and the related theme of kaizen) applies to not just divisions of sections of organizations, but to products, services, processes, supply chains, and related areas.

We also discussed Drucker-related dichotomies such as the constant tension between change and maintaining a sense of continuity within organizations.

Bernie made the point that for certain business activities, it’s all about optimization. But that is less the case in driving innovation, with new ventures and pilot testing.

Organizations also have to be strategic about how they reward and compensate people who are running optimization-focused activities, since these areas can still be crucial to the organization’s ongoing success.

We had some great energy in the live Q&A/discussion forums in all three sections, and people seemed to have fun (and find instructive) the periodic polling questions in parts one and two.

In the innovation session, Bernie also mentioned the books Ten Types of Innovation, by Larry Keeley; and The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing: A Guide to Growing More Profitably by Thomas T. Nagle and Georg Müller.

Part 3:

During the panel discussion, it was evident how passionate that Catherine Curtis, Director of Global Technical Learning at Microsoft, Fernando Sanchez-Arias, Chief People Officer and Head of Learning, Diversity & Innovation at Click Institute, and Bernie were/are about learning and teaching, and especially how these areas are so crucial for improving our organizations.

The panel discussed such themes as continuous improvement, building on strengths and learning how to learn, reflecting deep insights they've gained during their varied careers.

Bernie also mentioned the role of analytics in performance appraisal, and how the concept of the annual review is outdated and increasingly useless.

A key theme of the roundtable third session was the need for flexibility in organizational learning, on the part of both the organization and individuals.

Catherine mentioned the concept of hybrid, blended modalities. Many people have to learn in different time frames, and some people learn differently than others. Learning is delivered and accomplished in a variety of ways, and this is especially crucial in a huge company such as Microsoft, with more than 160,000 employees worldwide.

Catherine also discussed the importance of Microsoft's global allyship program, which began last year, and the major role Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella plays in the company’s corporate learning culture.

She also touched on the importance of Nadella’s book Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone.

Another book that was mentioned during the panel, when we were discussing learning as a practice, was Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better, by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi.

Overall, the Drucker Master Class Day was a very engaging, insightful and jam-packed day, reinvigorating the audience's interest for Drucker's teachings and principles. For continued content on Drucker, follow my articles on Corporate Learning Network.

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