In recognition of what would have been Peter F. Drucker’s 100th birthday, the Wall Street Journal is rerunning some classic Drucker on Management pieces. The piece today, originally published Oct. 21, 1993, is The Five Deadly Business Sins.
The first 3 sins are related to pricing and profit margins, the 4th is “slaughtering tomorrow’s opportunity on the altar of yesterday”, and the fifth is feeding problems and starving opportunities:
“– The last of the deadly sins is feeding problems and starving opportunities. For many years I have been asking new clients to tell me who their best-performing people are. And then I ask: "What are they assigned to?" Almost without exception, the performers are assigned to problems — to the old business that is sinking faster than had been forecast; to the old product that is being outflanked by a competitor’s new offering; to the old technology — e.g., analog switches, when the market has already switched to digital. Then I ask: "And who takes care of the opportunities?" Almost invariably, the opportunities are left to fend for themselves.
All one can get by "problem-solving" is damage-containment. Only opportunities produce results and growth. And opportunities are actually every bit as difficult and demanding as problems are. First draw up a list of the opportunities facing the business and make sure that each is adequately staffed (and adequately supported). Only then should you draw up a list of the problems and worry about staffing them.
I suspect that Sears has been doing the opposite — starving the opportunities and feeding the problems — in its retail business these past few years. This is also, I suspect, what is being done by the major European companies that have steadily been losing ground on the world market (e.g., Siemens in Germany). The right thing to do has been demonstrated by GE, with its policy to get rid of all businesses — even profitable ones — that do not offer long-range growth and the opportunity for the company to be number one or number two world-wide. And then GE places its best-performing people in the opportunity businesses, and pushes and pushes.”
Drucker concludes the piece:
“Everything I have been saying in this article has been known for generations. Everything has been amply proved by decades of experience. There is thus no excuse for managements to indulge in the five deadly sins. They are temptations that must be resisted.”
So, I have to ask, is your IT leadership indulging in the fifth deadly sin? Is enterprise architecture, typically staffed with top performers, focused purely on problems? Or, do they resist temptation, by investing some top talent in opportunity?