Peter Drucker on metrics as misdirection

Business, like any other institution, has important results that are incapable of being measured.

Any experienced executive will know companies or industries that are bound for extinction because they cannot attract or hold able people. This, every experienced executive also knows, is a more important fact about a company or an industry than last year’s profit statement.

Yet the statement can’t be defined clearly, let alone “quantified.” It is anything but “intangible”; it is very tangible indeed. It is just nonmeasurable. And measurable results will not show up for a decade.

A balance between the measurable and the nonmeasurable is therefore a central and constant problem of management and a true decision area. Measurements that do not spell out the assumptions with respect to the nonmeasurable statements that are being made misdirect, therefore.

They actually misinform. Yet the more we can quantify the truly measurable areas, the greater the temptation to put all-out emphasis on these – the greater, therefore, the danger that what looks like better controls will actually mean less control, if not loss of control all together.

Peter Drucker – Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices in The Daily Drucker

The Toolkit – Part 1: Foundations (4)

This post is part of the working draft of the DriverlessCrocodile Toolkit (read more here). I’d love comments, links to resources related to the theme, and original contributions.

Would they miss you? Why?

This question works for examining your personal values, and it’s a great pivot for thinking about the values of your organisation too.

What do you hope people will remember you and your team for?
What will people notice first? What will they miss when you’re gone?
How have you made things better?
Which of your shortcomings will make things worse if you’re not careful?
What will make the effort of running this project, of building this organisation worth it? If you didn’t have to earn a living, would you still do this? Why?

Thanks JG

The Toolkit – Part 1: Foundations (3)

This post is part of the working draft of the DriverlessCrocodile Toolkit (read more here). I’d love comments, links to resources related to the theme, and original contributions.

Another lens on personal values

If the obituary doesn’t work for you, try these simple questions:

  1. What do you love? What do you care (passionately) about?
  2. What makes you (righteously) angry?
  3. Who do you want to serve?

The power of these questions as a tool for thinking about your values comes when you ask “Why?”

Why do you love X?
What does Y mean to you?
What is it about these people that makes you want to serve them? What does that say about what’s important to you?

Thanks to JG

Peter Drucker on pay and rewards for knowledge workers

Knowledge workers demand economic rewards… Their absence is a deterrent.

But their presence is not enough… [Knowledge workers] need opportunity; they need achievement; they need fulfillment; they need values.

Only by making themselves into effective executives can knowledge workers obtain these satisfactions. Only executive effectiveness can enable society to harmonize its two needs: the needs of the organisation to obtain from the individual the contribution it needs, and the need of individuals to have the organisation serve as their tool for the accomplishment of their purposes.

Peter Drucker – The Daily Drucker from The Effective Executive

No mistakes. No regrets. (2)

Mistakes of technique

… are to be expected and – to a degree – accepted. You’ll drop catches, make miss-hits, typos, errors of arithmetic. These things happen.

Yes, we can improve our technique, and we can improve the system where these mistakes occur. But we should accept that mistakes likes these are part of what it means to be playing the game – and especially to be playing towards the edge of our comfort zone.

These are mistakes where we know what the mistake is going to be, can predict roughly when and how it will happen, and do our best to avoid it.

Mistakes of tactics and strategy

… are more often mistakes where we don’t know the right answer – because we’re doing something new, or something new to us and our organisation. We can read a lot and do our best to learn from others, get advice… and then do our best and see what happens.

We might fail because we don’t know what the right approach is, or because we can’t execute our plans, in which case we’re back to mistakes of technique or inadequacies in our systems.

Mistakes of character

… are my least favourite, and the ones that haunt me the most. I’m most troubled when I feel I’ve come across as self-interested or superficial, and I find it really hard to let these mistakes go and move on.

I find it an interesting quirk that it’s the same self-interest and superficiality that I fear revealing that causes me to agonise over my slip ups long after everyone else has forgotten them, if they even noticed at all in the first place.

Which brings us back to where we started yesterday: what kind of godlike, super-mega-ultra-lightning babe do you think you are, that you wouldn’t make mistakes of character?

Of course you will make mistakes. Be honest about them, and keep going, keep building a body of work and those long-term relationships of trust with people who know that you are not your slip ups, and who will give you the benefit of the doubt.

And while you’re at it… show up to the next meeting you attend, article you read, family gathering with a generous load of benefit-of-the-doubt for others.

The Toolkit – Part 1: Foundations (2)

This post is part of the working draft of the DriverlessCrocodile Toolkit (read more here). I’d love comments, links to resources related to the theme, and original contributions.


The best exercise I know for thinking about you values comes from Stephen Covey. If you haven’t done this before, it’s worth taking his advice and taking a few minutes over this on your own, somewhere where you can concentrate. Here we go:

In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to a funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out.

As you walk inside the building you notice the flowers, the soft music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of people there.

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you come face to face with… yourself.

This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the service to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended – children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or a community organisation where you’ve been involved in service.

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of colleague?

What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

Stephen Covey – Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

If you haven’t thought much about your values before, take a few minutes to write down some thoughts about your priorities.

Eyes. Sawdust. Planks.

 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”

Jesus of Nazareth – The Gospel of Matthew

Some ancient wisdom about the mechanics of criticism and disagreement:

  1. You’re far more aware of the shortcomings of others than you are of our own. (We spot specks a mile away, despite our blindness to our ridiculous planks).
  2. Our own shortcomings make it much harder for us to help to handle the shortcomings we see in others. (They distort our perspective, and also make us far less credible sources of help)
  3. The crucial insight I’ve been reminded of this week is that in most disagreements these mechanics of distorted-perspective work in both directions at the same time. That is, at the same time as we are prone to assume the worst and blow the shortcomings of others out of proportion, they are doing exactly the same thing to ours. We think we’re doing well by allowing for the distortion, but don’t appreciate that there’s often a double-distortion that we need to account for.

A series of questions to help think through disagreements:

  1. What do I think the problem is?
  2. How do I feel about my-idea-of-the-problem and why?
  3. Do these two things seem in alignment, or do my feelings suggest that I’ve got a different problem lurking below the surface?
  4. What does my colleague say the problem is?
  5. How do they feel about it and why?
  6. Ask question 3, but for them.


A colleague recently asked for a small extra allowance for a particular type of overtime. My logical and (to my mind) internally consistent solution was worth significantly more than they were asking – but they repeatedly stated their preference for the smaller allowance. I thought that they were really interested in the financial value of the payment – and was effectively offering more. It turned out (as I currently understand it), they were interested in feeling recognised and valued – and the smaller extra payment with the right frame spoke to this feeling in a way that my solution didn’t.

I saw “This person is always asking for more money.” They saw “This person doesn’t appreciate me.” We might both have been right – but neither of us had things in proportion.

Sawdust. Plank.

Conflicting values

If you keep butting up against the same problem with a colleague – a problem you think you’ve fixed, but that comes up repeatedly in slightly different variations – it could be a sign of conflicting values.

Values conflicts often seem to arise over:

  • Money (fees, salaries and expenses)
  • Time (working hours, punctuality)
  • Effort and focus (work ethic, productivity, accountability)
  • How we treat people (respect, courtesy)

If it is a values conflict (and it’s worth double checking that it’s not a case of your own poor management), you can be pretty sure that it’s going to keep on appearing until you do some deep work to address it.

These conflicts are tricky to handle because they’re often both emotion-laden and subjective. That is, we’re all pretty sure we’re right, and we’re indignant about being wronged – and our feelings of indignation double when realise how the other side of the argument perceives the things we say and do.

Some questions for working on values conflicts:

  • What’s the history here? How has this problem shown up in the past, and what seems to be the root cause?
  • What shortcoming of yours might they think is the root cause?
  • How is everyone feeling about the issue? How will that affect the way they communicate?
  • Assume for a moment that they have the same values as you do on this. What might make them act this way?
  • What information are you missing (or failing to recognise the importance of) that would help you make better decisions here?
  • What information do they have that might help you?
  • What factors are you assigning importance to that they don’t know about or don’t recognise, and how can you close those gaps?
  • Get advice – think particularly about people who might be able to fill in the missing information, or give perspective on how each party feels and why – and point out to you when you’re being unreasonable?
  • Where does the power lie in this conflict? Does this affect how you should behave?
  • If you’re convinced there is a conflict in values – check that you’ve consistently demonstrated the value in question in your treatment of others. What do you need to change?
  • How can you talk about the value, sharing information and telling stories that weave it more deeply into your organisational culture?
  • How will this affect how you choose new colleagues, suppliers or partners?
  • Where are the lines you’re not prepared to cross?
  • Are there people – respected colleagues, board members – that you can involve in the process in a way that takes the heat out of the situation, or reduces the extent to which you are seen as responsible (or are responsible) for the point of conflict?
  • If (when?) you make a mistake in addressing this, how can you make sure that it’s a mistake on the side of kindness, generosity and trust?

Invisible compromises

Why are our compromises so often invisible to others?

We take a deep breath, struggle to assume the best, let go of a few things and then stretch out with all the patience and generosity and grace that we can muster to offer a compromise and meet them in the middle…

… and nobody sees it.

If only our families, friends, colleagues, suppliers and customers would be more reasonable, they’d compromise too.

Motto (4): Have Fun

Driverless Crocodile

Have fun, learn lots, work hard, be kind.

You only get to do this once, so how are you going to play?

There’s a time for gritting your teeth, grinding it out, pushing through barriers. No pain, no gain is often true.

But for everything that isn’t necessarily hard, what’s more of an incentive to show up – hard work or fun?

If little and often is the best way to build something, to help people, to grow – what’s going to bring you back often?

What’s going to make people want to come with you?

Life is too wonderful, funny, tragic and absurd not to have fun along the way. The older I get, the more important I think this is, and the more ridiculous it seems that we put on po-faces for so much of our working lives, as if curt nods and knitted brows signal expertise and authority more reliably than a bit of levity and, dare I say it… joy?

Catch and sing the sun in flight.