In the introductory chapter of The Effective Executive (1966), management guru Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005) renders a prophetic insight into the role of corporate employees in an information age:
Every knowledge worker is an “executive” if, by virtue of his position or knowledge, he is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity of the organization to perform and to obtain results.
Forty years later, we know Drucker’s premise to be reality. Anyone charged with communicating company information carries an enormous responsibility in fulfilling daily tasks. Whether returning that prospective client’s inquiry, explaining that product specification sheet, delivering that price quotation, or troubleshooting that complicated order, employees contribute profoundly to the vitality of their organization.
So what does this truth have to do with writing? Simply that we have to use the tools at our disposal to communicate purposefully, courteously, clearly, and concisely. The computer, the PDA, and any other writing instrument available to us afford the opportunity to express more than just the data but our interpretation of the data, more than the just facts but our spin on them, more than a statement of the problem but our proposed solution to it. The computers in our head—not the ones resting on our desk—must do the real thinking, and we express our thinking through writing. In the same book, Drucker concludes:
The greatest impact of the computer lies in its limitations, which will force us increasingly to make decisions, and above all, force middle managers to change from operators into executives and decision-makers.
Where do those decisions appear? In writing—and writing tools are useful only in the right person’s hands.
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