Managing Oneself – Peter Drucker and the second quarter of the 21st century – DBR 017

Managing Oneself – Peter Drucker and the second quarter of the 21st century

This episode covers the “smartest person you’ve probably never read”. Drucker foresaw the rise of Knowledge Work 60+ years ago. Not only did he define it for us, but he let us know that it would be the primary challenge of the 21st Century manager. He also told us how and why to improve it. I discuss his six factors of Knowledge Worker productivity.

If you’re a Knowledge Worker and/or a manager, you need to understand the six factors so you can start working on them in your organization. And you’ll need to understand them because you have to manage yourself and your own productivity.

Who is Peter Drucker

  • Introduction
  • Background on Drucker
    • Drucker’s core thinking – management and firm performance
    • A student of his times (’40s – ’80s)
    • Drucker – Manual worker productivity
    • Knowledge worker productivity parallel to manual worker productivity
    • Drucker – Deming, Taylor and scientific management
  • Drucker – knowledge work and service work
  • The rise of Knowledge Workers in the economy
  • Knowledge Worker productivity drives overall economic success and growth in the 21st century
  • Managers’ critical responsibility for Knowledge Worker productivity
Drucker defined six factors that influence Knowledge Worker productivity:
  • Intro
    • Recognize that these are largely things that Knowledge Workers are responsible for
    • Many of them help contrast manual work and its management to knowledge work and its management
  • #1 Defining the task can be a challenge for Knowledge Work
    • Models, blueprints, etc. are a primary way to define physical product work
    • Information products can’t be modeled
    • Multiple instances of physical product are useful
    • Duplicating information has low cost so the work is usually one-off
  • #2 Knowledge Workers themselves have to be responsible for their productivity
    • Knowledge Work is unobservable
    • A good Knowledge Worker knows more than both the boss and the customer
    • Manager can’t do it for them
  • #3 Continuing innovation must be in Knowledge Workers’ hands
  • #4 Knowledge Workers must have time for continuous learning and teaching
    • Continuous learning – must be self-determined for each Knowledge Worker
    • Continuous teaching – others in the organization about the Knowledge Work result
  • #5 Quality is critical, but hard to determine and manage in Knowledge Work
    • Only the Knowledge Worker can determine what level of quality is possible
    • Overproducing quality is a waste
    • Quality vs quantity
    • Define quality in physical product
    • Specification = quality in physical products
    • The challenge of quality
  • #6 Knowledge Workers have to WANT to work for the organization
    • The productive asset is portable
    • Further, they must desire to give effort, not just time (engagement)
Improving Knowledge Worker productivity
  • How does this apply to improving Knowledge Worker productivity?
  • If we look at the six factors, we see that they are all aspects of management as it relates to manual workers – we are probably still managing as if we were in a manual work setting.
  • People aren’t taught to manage – either self- or other
  • Absent over-emphasis on motivation, managing self and others is not too different
  • Knowledge Workers need to understand self-management
  • Mindset for managers
  • Mindset for Knowledge Workers
  • Access to tools and training
  • Learn to manage, if only to manage one’s self

Now you know how to proceed with making yourself more productive and, thus, more valuable in the modern economy. The Attention Compass is the foremost tool for self-management for Knowledge Workers. Check on

Note: the podcast relies heavily on the following article:
Knowledge-Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge. Peter F. Drucker.
California Management Review, Vol. 41, No. 2. 1999.