Goodbye, Productivity. Hello, Engagement.

Posted on Nov 14, 2013 | 2 Comments

Here is this month’s piece from Brand Velocity, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that is putting Peter Drucker’s ideas into practice at major corporations.

For more than a decade, our firm has been touting the need to apply Peter Drucker’s principles of “knowledge work productivity” to important reinvention initiatives—efforts intended to help companies generate value by fundamentally restructuring the ways in which they do business (as opposed to simply trying to cut costs and boost efficiency).

But more and more, we’re finding, the term “productivity” is being seen as a negative. Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. In many minds, the P-word has come to mean anti-work-life balance; instead of plugging away 50 hours a week, we should be raising our output by working 60.

Confronted with this reality, my colleagues and I have started to think about framing our work—and, by extension, many of Drucker’s core principles—in a different way: as a means to lift employee engagement.

Today, only about 30% of employees in America are “engaged and inspired at work,” according to Gallup. At the other end of the spectrum are the 20% of employees who are actively disengaged. The other 50% of workers, meanwhile, are simply going through the motions. “They’re just kind of present, but not inspired by their work or their managers,” says Gallup Chief Executive Jim Clifton. Clearly, this is a huge concern for most corporations.

In this context, Drucker’s core ideas can easily be translated into a path for improving employee engagement—not necessarily as a goal in and of itself, but as an outcome of consistently doing the right things and doing them in the right ways.

Indeed, a Drucker-like company is much more likely than most to be an engaged organization. After all, it will have:

  • A vision that starts from the outside in, with the customer
  • Clear objectives, shaped from the bottom up and aligned with the organization’s overall purpose, that produce high-quality results
  • Excellent management systems and a proven innovation capability
  • Responsible leaders with positive internal and external relationships

It is probably a statement of the obvious that people become disengaged when work isn’t productive—when company practices lack basic common sense and employees get mired down in worthless meetings, countless fire drills, myriad hurry-up-and-wait exercises and energy-draining internal political battles.

Putting the right structures in place so that employees can do their best work is the surest way to improve engagement. As Drucker knew so well, “Those who perform love what they’re doing.”

Jack Bergstrand


  1. John Mackinnon
    November 19, 2013


    You are right on target and consistent with the research we have done at Dale Carnegie. As Gallup and many others point out employee disengagement is courting American businesses billions of dollars each year. We have recently partnered with Bob Kelleher to creat initiatives that improve employee engagement . I think I sent you a copy of Bob first book, his third book will be out soon Employee Enngagement for Dummies. Look forward to talking with you soon.

    All the best John

  2. Levend Beriker
    November 19, 2013


    I believe that Drucker was one of the few knowledgeable academics who carried rthe enrepreneurial angle to the modern corporation.

    I have been enabling the people working in the much touted Data Science and analytics roles. My experience as a consultant to large enterprises tells me there is also a link between curiosity and customer engagement. People in such support roles are essentisl to front line work, yet are wrestling with data access and inadequate, grandfathered tools snd methods.

    When curiosity is not satified in time, smart people drop off.

    Look forward to your next article.

    Levend Beriker


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