Planning to abandon

While I’m on Christmas vacation I asked some faithful readers to do a guest column. Today’s by Anthony Corridore has some management/change advice for federal agencies.  He writes:

As a fan of management guru Peter Drucker, I’ve read a few of his books. During his long life, Dr. Drucker, who passed away in 2005, eight days short of his 96th birthday, wrote more than three dozen books. Although some in jest have labeled Drucker as the man who invented management, he may have been the first to extensively study and write about management concepts. Some of his ideas dating from the 1950s include decentralization of organizations, viewing employees as assets and not liabilities to be eliminated, viewing the corporation as a community, emphasizing leadership substance over style, and the concept of “knowledge workers.” Before Kenneth Blanchard, before Tom Peters, before Peter Senge, there was Drucker. Indeed, many management gurus that followed may have rolled his concepts into a more appealing package, but they are derived from Dr. Drucker.

A particular Drucker concept that is instructive for contemporary government organizations is that of “planned abandonment.” In Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Drucker lists several reasons for abandoning a product, service, market or process:

  • If it “still has a few good years of life,” you’ve likely overestimated its potential lifespan and underestimated the resources required to keep it functioning. (This happens with alarming frequency with IT systems.)
  • If no other reason can be found other than it has already been paid for entirely.
  • If it is stunting the adoption of an emerging approach.

When someone new to your agency or department asks “Why are we performing this function?” or ”Why are we performing the function in this manner?” and the only reason you can offer is “Well, we’ve always done it this way,” that may be a clue that it is time to plan to abandon that function.

If the reason cited is that it’s required by legislation, that doesn’t entirely let you off the hook either.   Through the process laid out in the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-19 , agencies and departments can submit legislative changes through OMB. If you perform a function only because it is in legislation and for no other reason, then consider submitting an A-19 request to remove or change the language. This should be considered especially if the function or service no longer aligns with your organization’s mission. It may not be an easy sell, but it’s definitely worth making the effort.  And Peter Drucker would be proud of you!

Anthony Corridore is a retired Federal employee

His friend Wayne Abba, a retired Federal employee and current President of the College of Performance Management also contributed to this article.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By David Thornton

The average newborn’s head circumference measures about 13 3⁄4 inches.