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Workplace Values and The Power of Peter Drucker

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The word value is one of those big shouldered words we use in business today that is capable of bearing a lot of conceptual weight. On-line and in-conversation, the worthiness of a pursuit, be it cultural, empirical, organizational or aspirational, is legitimized by the value label. And this value has become the Swiss Army knife of constructs with numerous handy applications that can be used to enhance anything from selling a product, creating a software application, or investing your hard earned money.

The value concept is not something new. In fact, one of the leading management theorists of the 20th Century, Peter Drucker, wrote extensively about workplace values and its effects back in the WWII era. 

Value Expressions

Here are the most common workplace value expressions we encounter on a day-to-day basis and then we’ll go into how they relate to the key ideas of Drucker. 

Value proposition Shareholder value
Intrinsic value Having / Sharing values
Adding value Creating value
Value streaming Value chain or network 

The Power of Drucker
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Peter Drucker formalized the basis of Management by Objectives and The Knowledge Worker as a methodology to describe how the modern corporation and management structure would evolve in the future.

In thinking about the groundwork Drucker laid out, I thought it would be interesting to compare Drucker’s key ideas to our present day uses of the value expressions.

Value proposition
  • "A company's primary responsibility is to serve its customers. Profit is not the primary goal, but rather an essential condition for the company's continued existence and sustainability."
Intrinsic value
  • "Respect for the worker. Drucker believed that employees are assets not liabilities. He taught that knowledgeable workers are the essential ingredients of the modern economy. Central to this philosophy is the view that people are an organization's most valuable resource, and that a manager's job is both to prepare people to perform and give them freedom to do so."
Adding value
  • "The concept of "Knowledge Worker" in his 1959 book "The Landmarks of Tomorrow." Since then, knowledge-based work has become increasingly important in businesses worldwide." 
Value-stream
  • "The idea of outsourcing - Drucker used the concept of front-room/back-room:  A company should be engaged in only the front-room activities that are critical to supporting its core business. Back-room activities should be handed over to other companies, for whom these tasks are the front-room activities."
Shareholder value 
  • "The need for "planned abandonment." Businesses and governments have a natural human tendency to cling to "yesterday's successes" rather than seeing when they are no longer useful." 
Having values
  • "The need for community. Early in his career, Drucker predicted the "end of economic man" and advocated the creation of a "plant community where an individual's social needs could be met. He later acknowledged that the plant community never materialized, and by the 1980s, suggested that volunteering in the nonprofit sector was the key to fostering a healthy society where people found a sense of belonging and civic pride." 
Value Takeaway

Putting our current vernacular through Drucker’s prism of ideas – Serving the customer, your employees, and your community – is illuminating for me. As our readers know, SelectOne has blogged extensively about cultural trends in the workplace, the psyche of the Millennial, the departing Baby Boomer, the knowledge economy and numerous additional subjects all with the purpose of helping organizations better understand how to manage and acquire talent in a high-change marketplace. These topics aren’t really new and for me, value is best captured by the elegant thinking of a person who was able to simplify what we need to do so we can create a valuable entity focused on quality.

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