Leadership Insight: Peter Drucker’s Concept of Planned Abandonment

by Michael Josephson on April 27, 2012

Management guru Peter Drucker advocated a practice he called planned abandonment. He stressed how important it is that managers develop the wisdom and courage to regularly review what their organization is doing and determine whether it’s worth doing. He urged executives to note and resist the systemic and emotional forces that make it difficult to abandon activities that drain resources, detract from central goals, or otherwise impede progress.

Professor Drucker’s insights about abandonment seem equally applicable to the management of our lives. Many of us continue to pursue unrealistic career goals or stay in unhealthy or nonconstructive relationships that ought to be abandoned because they keep us from moving upward and forward toward core life goals.

It makes no sense to settle for relationships that lessen rather than enlarge us, that diminish rather than develop our values and character. Thus, we should summon the courage and integrity to abandon dead-end personal or work relationships. We need to recognize how murky notions of loyalty can blind us to simple realities and how unrealistic hopes that things will change can prevent us from achieving our higher potential.

Toxic relationships not only make us unhappy, they corrupt our attitudes and dispositions in ways that undermine healthier relationships and blur our vision of what is possible. It’s never easy to change, but nothing gets better without change.

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