Are we specialists or generalists here at the Drucker Exchange? Maybe we’re Drucker specialists about general topics. In any case, when we brought up the subject of specialists vs. generalists last week, it was in the context of General Electric, which once was known for rotating its top managers from division to division as they rose through the ranks, but now tends to keep them in the same unit. What, we asked, would you prefer in a top manager: People who have rotated through several parts of the business or people who have risen steadily within one?
Reader Linda Fishman said either way can work:
I’m not sure it matters either way in management of a company or in many fields. If the professional has excellent core education and experience and is very talented, then he or she can quickly move to and master a new part of a larger business or field and even be able to understand needs of one in which he or she never has worked.
We also asked our readers if teacher evaluations, those thorny creatures, can be made into beneficial tools.
Reader Reggie said evaluations can be helpful—but not if imposed in an adversarial way:
If evaluations are solely used for external reinforcements of desired behaviors then we are only silly Skinnerians hoping that we will get what we want. Using evaluations as rewards or punishments not only demeans the humanity of our craft but goes against what we know about Motivation 2.0 via Daniel Pink’s Drive. Yes, evaluate. Use the evaluation to assist the student as teacher in taking steps to become the master guru.
Reader jean suggested that we still don’t know exactly what we’re doing, and compared schools to hospitals with sick patients:
I still don’t know how one would control for the fact that we don’t want to unfairly penalize the hospital that has the patients who are most ill. I use the hospital because it is a less painful scene for me than a school.
And reader Mike Grayson said worry less about the getting in the right teachers than getting out the wrong students:
Evaluation is important, but what is more important is to allow the teacher to focus on those who want to learn and remove those who don’t from the environment and place them in a different kind of environment that focuses on the correction of behavioral issues.
Hey, we swear we didn’t launch that spitball.