Joe’s Journal: On Human Resources

“No part of the productive resources of industry operates at a lower efficiency than the human resources … In the better use of human resources lies the major opportunity for increasing productivity in the great majority of enterprises-so that the management of people should be the first and foremost concern of operating managements, rather than the management of things and techniques, on which attention has been focused so far.”

–Peter F. Drucker

This is changing, but to some extent it is still true. Peter Drucker had a very complex view of human beings. He saw the downside of humankind but chose to focus strongly on the upside. He knew that human beings were underutilized by executives especially in production and service work. As a worker, if you’re just viewed as a cog in a machine, you are going to be less motivated and the organization is not going to get the most out of you. What a person wants to give depends on how motivated that person is.

One of the most important things is to be challenged in your work and to show what you can do and be assessed and measured on the full strengths you bring to the job. Others have shown, and Drucker agreed, that many people without a college education may be developed to a very high levels of performance if properly led.

One example of an organization that maximizes the possibilities of its work force is Southwest Airlines. Compared to its competitors, Southwest just does a better job. They get it. They know that the more they motivate and develop their employees, the happier their customers will be and the better they will do as a company. They continually aim to fire up their employees and to encourage them to learn, to develop and to have fun. The quality in which services are preformed depends on how well you seize opportunities to increase motivation and creativity of the service providers.

Peter advocated the plant community concept whereby workers make a lot of decisions for themselves. This idea was largely rejected by labor and business in the United States but it was used in Japan. In Japan the results demonstrated the fruits of his idea. The Japanese worker became much more productive than the American worker. Drucker gave up the idea of the plant community but I have found examples of this concept being carried out in the United States. One was at Lincoln Electric where they essentially worked as a plant community; they focused on providing employees with opportunities and tools for training to help them assume more responsibility.

This was a powerful idea and Drucker was correct, but it was not right for all workers. There are always some workers who’re content with clocking in and out, simply to collect a check. But I think Peter wanted us to know that we should never underestimate how far a worker can grow regardless of how limited their education; this would be a great mistake.

–Joe Maciariello