Week 22 of 52. Welcome to Drucker Mondays, a 52-week journey through the new book, A Year with Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership Effectiveness, by Joseph A. Maciariello. Each Monday, we'll feature a Drucker fan and his or her favorite snippet from the week's topic. (Subscribe on this page.) Mark Matlock is our guest writer today.
THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: Every organization needs to have a regular “rummage sale” to determine which products, services and programs are worth keeping and which ones must be abandoned.
MARK MATLOCK'S FAVORITE DRUCKER INSIGHTS from Week 22, pages 170-176:
• “The inability to abandon existing programs reduces resources available to fund new initiatives that are necessary if the U.S. is to remain competitive as a nation.”
• “Abandonment of the old is particularly important for the non-profit service organization because it believes, and must believe, in the righteousness of its cause. That makes innovation very difficult because the first key to innovation is the willingness to abandon the old so that you free yourself for the new.”
• “If we did not do this already, would we go into it now?” If the answer is no, “What do we do now?”
• “Beware of commitment to ego as an excuse for maintaining the status quo.”
• “Developing a process of systematic abandonment, and making it a regular part of the culture of an organization is one of the most effective ways to eliminate the old and make room for the new.”
MARK MATLOCK'S COLOR COMMENTARY:
It seems that every time I am with a group of non-profit executives (my field) everyone is talking about what new things they are adding, but rarely do you hear them discuss what they are letting go. Try sharing what you are subtracting sometime. If it’s true, you’ll get a great reaction because many leaders don’t know how to let things go. They’ll want to know how you did it.
Drucker’s comments about non-profits is spot on. We commit so deeply to what we do rather than “why” we do our programs, they can take on a sacredness regardless of whether they are effective or not. We can often raise funds to paste leaves onto dead limbs rather than pruning back and bearing more fruit. Many of our organizations would benefit from Holy Subtraction.
When Jesus said the harvest was ripe, but laborers were needed in the field, it made clear to me that we do not fundamentally have communication, program, or funding problems—our fundamental issue is one of capacity. I remember a rare moment, as a board member, when we came to the realization that the organization had more funds available than we could implement on the field. When does that ever happen?
Capacity was our issue, and abandonment of old systems helped make way for innovation. Drucker’s thoughts around systematic abandonment help us manage capacity to make room for the difficult work of innovation.
Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” and other resources, like his book, Start With Why, include helpful concepts when coupled with Drucker’s insights—to help us figure out what needs to go.
But be careful of only practicing abandonment once. It’s Drucker’s focus on systematizing abandonment that rings true. Abandonment needs to be part of an organization’s culture, like spring cleaning. Every organization needs a rummage sale to reduce clutter and potentially make space for something new.
(Sometimes managing for capacity is difficult for boards and donors to understand. For more on capacity and non-profits, check out the Venture Philanthropy Partners report prepared by McKinsey & Company.)
THIS WEEK'S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY MARK MATLOCK:
Mark Matlock, President of Youth Specialties, is the author of several books for teens and parents. In addition to his work in youth ministry, Mark is a member of the Magic Castle in Beverly Hills and enjoys cooking elaborate meals for friends and family. Mark is also a Life Planner with The Paterson Center, and a master trainer in the MCORE motivational assessment. Mark has also served three terms as a board member of The Seed Company. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markmatlock
• Ask what products, programs and services are really moving the mission of the organization forward.
• Are there known “sacred cows” that cannot be touched?
• What would be the appropriate rhythm for systematic abandonment in your organization? Who are the key decision makers that need to be involved?
• What leaders do you know that have managed the abandonment of a product, program or service that you could gain wisdom from?
On June 8, 2015, Tami Heim, President & CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance, will share her color commentary on Week 23’s topic, “Using the Mission Statement to Create Unity in the Organization,” the third of five weeks on “Maintaining Your Organization Through Change.”