Saturday, November 12


Peter F. Drucker -- regarded as "the father of modern management" -- died yesterday of natural causes at his home in Claremont, California. He was 95 years old. Many of Mr. Drucker's seminal books on management line the bookshelves of my personal library, among them his tome "Management," which he was kind enough to sign personally for me many years ago.

From the Associated Press (AP):

"He is purely and simply the most important developer of effective management and of effective public policy in the 20th century," former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Friday. "In the more than 30 years that I've studied him, talked with him and learned from him, he has been invaluable and irreplaceable."

Drucker was considered a management visionary for his recognition that dedicated employees are key to the success of any corporation, and that marketing and innovation should come before worries about finances.

His ability to explain his principles in plain language helped them resonate with ordinary managers, said former Intel Corp. (INTC) Chairman Andy Grove. "Consequently, simple statements from him have influenced untold numbers of daily actions. They did mine over decades," Grove said.

Drucker championed concepts such as management by objective and decentralization, and his motivational techniques have been used by executives at some of the biggest companies in corporate America.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Drucker thought of himself, first and foremost, as a writer and teacher, though he eventually settled on the term "social ecologist." He became internationally renowned for urging corporate leaders to agree with subordinates on objectives and goals and then get out of the way of decisions about how to achieve them.

He challenged both business and labor leaders to search for ways to give workers more control over their work environment. He also argued that governments should turn many functions over to private enterprise and urged organizing in teams to exploit the rise of a technology-astute class of "knowledge workers."

Mr. Drucker staunchly defended the need for businesses to be profitable but he preached that employees were a resource, not a cost. His constant focus on the human impact of management decisions did not always appeal to executives, but they could not help noticing how it helped him foresee many major trends in business and politics.

From an interview of Mr. Drucker conducted in 1984 and first published in the "Claremont Review of Books," he is quoted as saying:

Look. I went to a business school in 1949 because it was the only place where I would be allowed to teach management, which nobody had taught before. It was new, an invention. And I went to management because it was the one discipline in which I could apply all the liberal arts basically. Management deals with the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of the devil. Not necessarily in that order always. I published the first book on general management, which was The Concept of the Corporation, and I wrote it simply because I needed one, and nobody had written one. That's what makes a writer. He writes books because he needs to. They didn't know what to do with me. I was teaching philosophy and religion and I was a political scientist, and at the risk of shocking you, I was in line for President of the American Political Science Association. Not that I was terribly interested; I'm not an association man. The old gentleman who reviewed me in the American Political Science Review had been a kind of sponsor of mine in the discipline. He was really angry with me for taking management seriously and concluded his review with the words, "It is to be hoped that the next book of this promising young scholar will address itself to a respectable topic."

Among my favorite quotes from this engaging teacher:

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.

FOLLOW-UP: By all means, do read this piece on Drucker by Peter Schramm, and as linked at Power Line. And I should add that I attended Claremont-McKenna College in Claremont, California -- a private liberal arts college and a member of the Claremont Colleges. While I did not meet Professor Drucker as a student, I did attend a seminar of his later on in my life as a businessman. He was a magnificent, captivating teacher and had such an attractive, engaging personality. And, oh, what a facile mind! In my business life, including many years in senior management, I regarded myself as a Drucker-devotee. In my conservative politics, I have immense admiration and affinity for Harry V. Jaffa, who Peter Schramm makes reference to in his column. The world of business and public affairs should (and no doubt does) feel a great sense of loss with Peter Drucker's passing.

FOLLOW-UP II: Good post by Professor Bainbridge, including LAT's Obit and WJS's Op-ED.