Over the past few weeks, volunteers at our affiliate, the Drucker Society of Europe, have been busy making plans for the fifth Global Peter Drucker Forum, set to take place in Vienna in November. They’ve announced an exciting media partnership with Harvard Business Review. They’ve lined up a number of prominent speakers. They’ve arranged impressive panels aimed at shedding light on the main theme of the event, “Managing Complexity.”
As we’ve watched these developments take place, we haven’t forgotten one of the main reasons that the 2013 Drucker Forum is poised, like its predecessors, to be so successful: We at the Drucker Institute have learned to get out of the way.
Standing aside didn’t come easily. For several years, we tried to tightly oversee our Drucker Society Global Network, prescribing a slate of programs for our volunteers to implement in their local communities.
In our minds, laying out concrete objectives in this way was perfectly Drucker-like. In the minds of many of our volunteers, however, we were being heavy-handed and bureaucratic.
And so, after much discussion, we decided to let go. In late 2011, we created a volunteer-led leadership council to guide the network. The Drucker Institute still supports our 22 Societies around the world, in part by ensuring that each local chapter lives up to a clear set of high standards. But the details of how that’s achieved, and how results are measured, are now left up to the volunteers themselves.
The result: The Drucker Societies are flourishing. Besides the Drucker Society of Europe, which has turned its annual Forum into a major international management conference, other volunteer chapters are teaching Drucker-based management principles to disadvantaged youth (São Paulo), holding executive-coaching sessions (Korea), working with nonprofits and NGOs (Singapore and India) and much more.
All of this would have made great sense to Peter Drucker, who noted that nonprofit confederations, like ours, work best when the parent organization figures out how to square “conflicting demands for autonomy and conformity.”
It is a delicate balance, but the payoff can be sweet.
Rick Wartzman and Zach First
Executive Director and Managing Director