“Under New Management” [Author Interview]

David Burkus is the author of the new book, Under New Management. He is host of the Radio Free Leader podcast and associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University. Please visit his website at www.davidburkus.com.


(JLH) One of my personal heroes is Peter F. Drucker, the man whom Businessweek called the “Father of Modern Management”. How, if at all, do you see Drucker’s teaching on management by objectives, executive effectiveness, building on strengths, and reducing the salary compensation of C-level leaders down to a more reasonable and fair amount, related to the techniques you discuss in Under New Management?

(DB) I see a pretty big connection. Drucker was a visionary who coined the shift from industrial to knowledge work and predicts it scaling. There’s a reason we call him the father of “modern” management. In contrast, Fredrick Taylor being the father of scientific management. That older thinking is really what I take aim at in my book. We made the shift from industrial to knowledge but we took Taylor’s management with us. Drucker laid a foundation for modern management, executives and entrepreneurial leaders started to experiment with new ideas, researchers also experimented with organizational psychologies principles. The hope is that Under New Management summarizes and blends a lot of the wisdom from all of these pioneers.


(JLH) You have achieved a great deal of recognition for your contribution to management, including writing for the Harvard Business Review and Forbes, and being listed on the “On the Radar” category of the 2016 Thinkers50. What do you attribute your earned success and notoriety too?

(DB) You know, Drucker loved the phrase “opportunity favors the prepared mind.” We’re in the midst of a huge shift in connectivity for the whole world and it’s giving voice to a lot of people. I’m grateful to be one of them and I’m hoping to do my part to continue to invite others into the conversation.


(JLH) You’re an associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University, an interdenominational Christian school, that while recognized in 2012 by the Princeton Review as one of 123 institutions in the ‘Best in the West” regional ranking, isn’t necessarily known for its business college, like say Sloan at MIT, Ross at Michigan, Wharton at Pennsylvania, or Tuck at Dartmouth. Yet, you are a best-selling author and award-winning podcaster. Is it your personal platform, your work in the classroom, or some combination of both, that has helped you reach a broader audience than just at ORU?

(DB) I think it’s again part of that shift. I’m proud of my work with ORU and, while it’s not a “brand name” school I think that forced me to thinking differently about how to get a message heard…and that led me to the aforementioned shift.


(JLH) What advice would you have for graduate students, or millennial leaders considering transitioning into a business or managerial professorship?

(DB) I’d say build a platform independent of your university, whether you’re a doctoral student or already in a faculty role. Your research is important, absolutely, but it’s also about what managers can do with your research. That part likely won’t be covered by the journal you publish in, so it’s on you to write about how leaders can use what you’ve researched.


(JLH) How important is it for an author to begin building their own platform?

(DB) I’m not a big fan of the term “platform” because people aren’t planks. You build an audience by sharing and giving. The larger that audience the more they can help you share your message (providing you’re giving valuable content). I don’t know that I would try and launch a book without one, so I’d look to blogs, podcasts, or other publications you can write for to refine your craft but also to build an audience.


(JLH) How did you work your way into being a contributor for HBR and Forbes?

(DB) I wrote…a lot. I made friends with people who wrote. Eventually they noticed.


(JLH) Of the best-practices you take aim at in Under New Management, which one or ones were you most surprised by in your research?

(DB) Salary transparency. I expected to research it and come down in favor or privacy and transparency. But the research was overwhelming. Salary secrecy hurts employees and does productivity damage to the organization. It’s not worth it. Sure, it feels uncomfortable sharing what you get paid, but it’s a lot more uncomfortable to wonder if you’re being discriminated against, or compensated fairly, or even appreciated for your contribution.


(JLH) Where do you see management’s next uncharted territory?

(DB) I’m looking into the larger ecosystem. Every company exists in a larger network of vendors, suppliers, customers, and competitors and where you embed yourself in that ecosystem and how you move through it dramatically effects the business. I’m interested in looking more into that.


(JLH) You teach courses on strategic leadership at Oral Roberts. What is the biggest issue(s) CEO’s need to be aware of, or at least consider in today’s tumultuous business environment?

(DB) “Great leaders don’t innovate the product, they innovate the factory.” This was true when Fredrick Taylor started reinventing physical factories. It was true when Peter Drucker started describe the shift from factory to office. And it’s true now. Leaders need to take a deep look at their organization and how they can better design it to give their people the autonomy and resources they need to bring value to the organization. Innovative products and services always follow innovative management. That’s the core idea of Under New Management.


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