I recently had the good fortune to sit down and discuss management, management philosophies, and goal setting strategies with Vincent Drucker at his home in Northern California. Vincent, a successful business executive, is the son of Peter Drucker, considered one of the best-known and most widely influential thinkers and writers on the subject of management theory and practice.

We didn’t waste any time getting right into the heart of the topics. Vincent posed this question to frame our discussion: “Are an individual’s goals simply designed to further company goals or should there also be a proficiency component whereby the goals which are set also include those that are designed to enable the individual to contribute more later?”  

Traditional goal setting approaches, such as the elder Drucker’s Management by Objectives model have the bottom line in mind—how much an individual will produce and how much money he or she will earn for the firm. This philosophy of setting goals sees an individual worker as an asset. Peter Drucker believed talented people were essential ingredients to every successful enterprise and that all workers should be treated as assets.

Vincent expands on his father’s ideas as he talks about developing individuals so they become more valuable to a company over time. According to Vincent, an individual can become more valuable through greater knowledge as well as the ability to quickly shift focus to the most important goal.

He wonders if goal setting is really successful if a key person is engaged at work and clearly contributing to their company’s near-term goals, but they are not developing their proficiency. He suggested that employee evaluations should include an individual’s personal goals that also make a contribution to the organization. He suggests managers be mentored on these types of ideas in order to be good executives. For example, a marketing executive might have a personal goal to learn Spanish which may take several years, but ends up helping the company expand into markets outside the US.

To assist managers in becoming good executives, Gallup offers programs such as “StrengthsFinder,” a leadership approach to help managers work with individuals to set goals.

Drucker believes that an organization that defines the right goals can benefit from goal setting software. Although Vincent believes strongly that systems should be rolled out top-down to gain management buy-in at every level—and everyone gets training from a more senior executive or manager.

No matter the approach, Vincent is certain, “Goals should be put into place to develop capabilities so individuals become more valuable to the company every day.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

This is the first in a series of posts from my conversations with Vincent Drucker. Stay tuned for his thoughts about management.