Peter Drucker on the Power of Information

A key resource in a leadership system is information. The old saying “Information is power” is certainly true and many leaders use information well. Way more leaders use it protect their power and kingdom. In every organization I have been involved with, there is always someone who wants to pretend that they have access to a secret source of information. It’s a power game. But what if the leadership system, provided unencumbered access to all information related to performance?
I frequently get into discussions with clients about how to motivate workers to higher performance. I have struggled with this myself. One solution for leaders is to make information more available and transparent. Donella Meadows, in her iconic work, Thinking Systems, recounts the effect of the 1986 Toxic Release Inventory. This was a piece of Federal regulation that required U.S. Companies to report all hazardous air pollutants released from their factories. With no further regulation, no Federal club to manufactures, hazardous emissions began to drop. In 1988 the initial data became public and 2 years after that there was a drop in hazardous emissions of 40%. It seemed manufacturers were more concerned about public perception (resulting from the free flow of information) than a threat of a Federal lawsuit.
I was recently talking with a Senior Medical Officer (SMO) from a small healthcare insurer. He told me how he was able to motivate their primary care physicians to follow up their diabetic patients and their A1C tests. Every physician was sure 75%-80% of their diabetic patients were having their Hemoglobin checked at regular intervals. They were wrong. According to the SMO it was down around 40%. He had several choices, but his approach was a basic understanding of competitive human nature. He simply published the actual results by physician. Within a few months, the actual results came up to 75%. Information, simple actual results proved more effective that financial incentive, meetings, reminders, or threat. That is the beauty of a system.