September 23, 2008

News & Opinion: Peter Drucker's Five Questions

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:32 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Peter Drucker 's body of work is mostly recognized in the business community, but he spent an enormous amount of time thinking about the non-profit sector.

One of his many legacies is the New York-based Leader to Leader Institute, an organization that focuses on developing leadership in the social sector. The Institute has updated and reissued a book that was written for non-profits originally but works for any organization.

In the early 1990's, Drucker and the then Drucker Foundation published a self-assessment tool titled "The Five Most Important Questions". In writing why he created the tool, Drucker said:

Although I don't know a single for-profit business that is as well managed as a few nonprofits, the great majority of the nonprofits can be graded a "C" at best. Not for a lack of effort; most of them work very hard. But for lack of focus, and for lack of tool competence."

Let's not be fooled. Business needs plenty of help too.

Drucker's questions are simple, but as is always found in Drucker's writings, the simplicity is deceiving and the clarity of the questions forces you to reexamine your assumptions.

  • What is our mission?
  • Who is our customer?
  • What does the customer value?
  • What are our results?
  • What is our plan?

The new book is titled The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization and the Leader to Leader Institute has enlisted some big names to expanded on Drucker's original message. Jim Collins, Phil Kotler, and Jim Kouzes along with Judith Rosen and Kasturi Rangan each provide an essay that follows one of five questions.

The book is a quick read; I was able to finish it during a flight back from the West Coast.

It's the answers to the questions that I am still working on.

About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.