Byron's Babbles

Investments in Managerial Ego

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 31, 2015

innovation“Nothing so powerfully concentrates a man’s mind on innovation as the knowledge that the present product or service will be abandoned within the foreseeable future.” ~ Peter Drucker

This quote from Peter Drucker is so true. The first key to innovation is the willingness to abandon the old so that you free yourself for the new. Thus, the idea of “investments in managerial ego.” The three sectors of government, social, and business all have difficulty abandoning obsolete products, services, policies, and procedures. The inability to abandon existing programs reduces resources available to both fund and carry out new initiatives necessary to stay competitive and meet the mission and vision of our organizations (Maciariello, 2014). You are probably already thinking of programs, both in the government and social sector, that no longer serve their originally intended purposes.

Robert Anthony, a former Harvard Business School professor and under Secretary of Defense for Robert McNamara during the Kennedy administration, believed all agencies need to “examine its [program] reason for being, its methods of operations, and its costs.” (Maciariello, 2014, p. 171) I would also add the question of whether the team has the capacity to carry out the program. I really experienced this early in my career as an agriculture science teacher and FFA advisor. Both the state FFA and national FFA organizations would add new contests and programs each year, but there was never anything taken away. Well, as you can imagine this put strains on budgets and the ability to get things done well. The positive of this was, however, it taught many of us how to really ask the question of, “What are the things we are going to do well?” I always believed, and I believe they are doing a better job of this today, the FFA organizations should have been asking, “If we add this [program or contest], what are we going to get rid of or take off the teachers’ plates.” I really do try to practice this now as a school leader, but as any of you know who are on the front lines as the “Deer in the Headlights,” this is easier said that done.year-with-peter-drucker

Peter Drucker (2014) said we must ask the questions, “If we did not do this already, would we go into it now?” If the answer is no , ‘What do we do now?'” The question has to be asked – and asked seriously. In other words, “If we did not do this already, would we, knowing what we know, go into it now?” If the answer is no, the reaction must be “What do we do now?” I get it though; it is so difficult for any business or organization to abandon a program because the program may represent an investment by the people who introduced it and who nursed it along. Beware of commitment to ego as an excuse for maintaining status quo (Maciariello, 2014). Developing a process of systematic abandonment (Maciariello, 2014), and making it a regular part of the culture of an organization, is one of the most effective ways to eliminate the old and make room for the new.

We must remember that when given the challenge of choosing between two or more competent programs, we must keep the one that makes the more significant contribution to the mission and vision of our organization and to society.


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.


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