Is Management an Art or a Science? When posed with this question, my answer is generally, “yes.” We can examine a scientific or clinical definition of management, such as “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.”
But management is so much more than “dealing” with people. A great manager who can apply empathy, support employee autonomy, reach department goals, and balance budgets is really guiding many dynamic aspects toward one common unrealized vision. When we factor in the dynamic aspects of employee needs, emotions, and well-being, we begin to see the art behind the actions of a truly brilliant, masterful, manager.
Peter Drucker is one such masterful, art-based manager whose work focused on the needs, emotions, and well-being of employees. Drucker had a distinguished academic career teaching management at New York University. He then developed the country’s first executive MBA program for Claremont Graduate University in 1971. Not only did he teach management at Claremont University until 2002, but his work is also the foundation for the Drucker Institute developed in 2006.
Just as a painter needs to know Leonardo De Vinci or a piano player needs to know Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, management students and practitioners should have awareness of Peter Drucker. He was a multidisciplinary management leader who combined psychology, sociology, law, and journalism to understand management issues and management opportunities. Drucker’s most significant contributions or philosophies are often noted as:
- Nature of Management: Management should not be bureaucratic, rather management should include creativity and innovation.
- Management by Objectives (MBO): MBO is a philosophy of management that includes planning, setting standards, performance appraisals and motivation.
- Organizational Changes: Organizations should be dynamic and able to absorb change.
But Wait, There’s More
In addition to these noteworthy philosophies, Drucker, is known for sharing meaningful management quotes such as the following:
- “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
- “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”
- “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
While these philosophies and quotes are important for shaping effective management policies and procedures, my personal favorite Drucker philosophy and quote is “What everyone knows is frequently wrong.”
This is an interesting quote. Wouldn’t you agree? In fact, we must read it several times to begin to allow the main concepts to “sink in.” If we “sit” with the quote for a while, we will likely conclude, as managers and organizational leaders, that the statement is not only true, but this simple statement is also important to remember.
A Common Problem
How often have you observed managers and team members to make decisions based on common knowledge, assumptions, agreed upon norms or even just organizationally accepted “facts?” In other words, there are collectively accepted ideas that everyone knows, and everyone accepts, without collecting any data or conducting any analysis. Not only can this lead to inaccurate decisions, but this can also minimize the chances that an organization will seek new and innovative solutions.
Drucker is calling upon managers to lead organizations by gathering evidence and to examine the evidence closely before making any decisions. Serving as a manager is a significant responsibility and Drucker’s recommendation of forming management beliefs based on data can help. Managers will then be able to make decisions that are creative, that maintain standards, and that allow organizations to be agile rather than static. Even more so, management decisions based on data and analysis will support both the science and the art behind effective managers.
What Is Right
I encourage all individuals who want to lead or manage to study the work of Peter Drucker. I encourage you to consider which of Drucker’s philosophies and quotes are most meaningful to you. Regardless of the philosophy or quote you most identify with, I think we can all agree that Drucker’s idea that “What everyone knows is frequently wrong.” is very often right.