A lesson from Peter Drucker on why records are important

Central to all records management is the concept of evidence.

Peter Drucker (or at least people who quote him frequently) provides us with a really important lesson about why it’s so important.

Decades of managers have been quoting Peter Drucker. He thoroughly deserves his following.

One of the quotes you’ll hear attributed to him most often is “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Managers have been using this for decades to support various ideas about measurement and courses of action they should or shouldn’t support.

The problem is that Peter Drucker never said anything like it, and if you’ve read Peter Drucker you’d know that in many ways it’s antithetical to him.

The actual quote is from W Edwards Deming (another giant of management theory and practice) who wrote that “it is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

The thing I took and continue to take from Peter Drucker is that the key in most situations is figuring out the right question to ask. In this case, I think there are two:

  1. How many mistakes are being made in our organisations because they’re either not relying on evidence or relying on evidence that’s incomplete.
  2. We manage the evidence about every decision our organisations have made, and every course of action they’ve taken, why aren’t people coming to get it before they make decisions?

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