Dr. Peter Drucker – Bad decisions.

Dr. Peter Drucker

Dr. Peter Drucker



More often than not, international organisations do not hold a full picture of risk based situations that arise in projects before they make and take decisions. In nearly all of the organisations I have worked in; bad decisions have bred distrust.

Management guru, Peter Drucker writes extensively about the human impact of management decisions in corporations – which incidentally will not appeal to today’s executives. For example in the 1990s Drucker warns of the impacts resulting from huge pay raises and bonuses for CEOs. “In the next economic downturn, there will be an outbreak of bitterness and contempt for these super corporate chieftains who pay themselves millions.” I write this here because it still remains of great relevance today.

There was a continuous fast exchange of money changing hands. In London, for example, this GSM Telecommunications portal project was pulling in the money. As a result, people in the London office were filling their pockets with cash, writing contracts with 12 months “gardening leave”, and generally kicking back while others did the hard work for very little gain. The Director for the Zagreb office noticed this, which lit the fuel on the territorial issues and brought additional havoc to the project.

Trust issues on this GSM portal project were there because bad decisions were being made – and once made – there was high inflexibility towards change. Prior to my arrival on the portal project, there was little to no inclusion – very little use of the word “we”. Communication was selective and sparse in areas of great importance; for example, forgetting to obtain binding service level agreements from IBM. The project was in “helter skelter” towards a public and financial disaster.

Trusts issues can and often do continue on their route towards catastrophe because bad decisions made by top management are proverbially swept under the carpet. Drucker explains; for every single business failure of a large company in the last few decades, the board were always the last to know when things were going wrong. Today I see a repeat of this spilling over to non-profit organisations, with full or partial EU funding, such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

“You scare my people”, the client’s head of marketing for the GSM portal project  said to me at a weekly meeting. Of course we do, because International Project Managers (IPMs) are about transparency, inclusion, collaboration, and consistent timely and responsibility driven delivery. Where there is a lack of these important project management prerequisites some individuals will take advantage of a failing situation and continue to do so until light is shone on their detrimental activities and in some cases, inactivity.

For failing projects, responsible International Project Managers are forced to assume control of all deliverables – including management of stakeholders.  We do this by bringing order -in the form of assessments- to the chaos erupting around us. Within the assessment (or audit), we will usually discover where the mistakes are occurring and who is responsible. By bravely highlighting and confronting those responsible – professionally, using action plans – we are taking the necessary action steps to deliver the project.

We should never worry about assuming direct control of our respective top managers because our responsibilities includes – as a top priority – successful delivery of the project. This responsibility gives us the authority to assume control – even at CEO level (as was indeed the case for me on this GSM portal project). Drucker explains, “very few decisions need to be the responsibility of top management”.

Of course, IPMs are not going to be liked by those that disagree with their authority being professionally diminished. However, I urge all International Project Managers to remain consistent, confident and courageous. Bear in mind that those who disagree with the proper diminishment of their authority are usually territorial or lacking in full understanding of their primary function.

Today, we as IPMs do not have much choice in the matter because, if we fail to take control, then we doom our projects to failure.


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