Peter Drucker – Modern Management

Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker and the Drucker Institute

It is pretty obvious by the quote at the bottom of my JKS Talent Network website homepage, and my periodic musings, that I am a huge fan of Peter Drucker, the father of modern management. He left us in 2005 at the age of 95.

Drucker was a writer, management consultant and university professor. In addition to his teaching career, Drucker wrote 39 books and was widely published as a contributing writer. His writing focused on management-related literature.

As a consultant, Drucker worked with nearly every major corporation, including General Electric, Coca-Cola, Citicorp, IBM and Intel as well as numerous global governmental and non-governmental organizations. In his later years, Drucker consulted free of charge for social welfare and charitable organizations, among them CARE, the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.

Other’s Reflections on Drucker’s Contributions

Peter Drucker coined the well-known term ‘knowledge worker’. He is thought to have unknowingly ushered in the knowledge economy. Many modern day management ‘gurus’, when speaking of Drucker, have been quoted as saying:

  • “He was the creator and inventor of modern management” – Tom Peters, writer In Search of Excellence
  • The Daily Drucker by Ernest Chiang“Like many philosophers, he spoke in plain language that resonated with ordinary managers. Consequently, simple statements from him have influenced untold numbers of daily actions; they did mine over decades.” – Andrew S. Grove, CEO Intel Corp.
  • “Drucker gave us the language, the metaphor, the lens, the understanding of the role of management as the critical function” – Jim Collins, author Good to Great
  • “What I find is that whenever I think I have got a really creative idea, if I go back [to] Peter’s books I always find he already said it first” – Ken Blanchard, author One-Minute Manager
Image: The Daily Drucker by Ernest Chiang

Drucker on People

Peter Drucker formed a blueprint for today’s thinking leaders. He taught generations of managers the importance of picking the best people, of focusing on opportunities and not problems, of getting on the same side of the desk as your customer, of the need to understand your competitive advantages and to continue to refine them.

Peter Drucker on decentralization by Xavier VergésDrucker believed that talented people were the essential ingredient of every successful enterprise. He conceived the concept that the corporation is a human community built on trust and respect for the worker rather than being just a profit-making machine. Drucker was intrigued by employees who knew more about certain subjects than their bosses or colleagues while cooperating with others in a large organization.

Image: Peter Drucker on decentralization by Xavier Vergés.png

Today Peter Drucker’s teachings, thinking and influence continue at The Drucker Institute based at Claremont Graduate University in California. The Institute is a think tank and action tank focused on advancing the ideas and ideals of its namesake.

Last fall Time Magazine re-published an article contributed by The Drucker Institute on The Passion Puzzle at Work. I found this article particularly engaging and wanted to share it with you.

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The Passion Puzzle at Work

Do you feel passionate about your job? If you answered yes, then you’re abnormal, at least if you go by the numbers.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Ira Sager reports on new research from Deloitte Consulting’s Center for the Edge indicating that “truly passionate U.S. employees” make up “a scant 11% of the workforce.”

Deloitte defines a passionate worker as one who hopes to have a lasting and increasing impact on a particular industry or function; actively seeks out challenges to rapidly improve performance; and looks for deep interactions with others and builds strong, trust-based relationships to gain new insight.

In other words, employee passion—at least as viewed by Deloitte—goes well beyond mere engagement. But to develop passion, it clearly requires something that Peter Drucker believed was absolutely essential: each individual worker taking responsibility for his or her own results and continued learning.

“We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity: If you’ve got ambition and smarts you can rise to the top of your chosen profession,” reads the introduction to one of Drucker’s most popular essays, “Managing Oneself.” “But with opportunity comes responsibility. Companies today aren’t managing their employees’ careers; knowledge workers must, effectively, be their own chief executive officers.”

In another passage, Drucker added: “It’s up to you . . . to make high demands on yourself by way of contribution to the work of the organization itself. To practice what I call preventative hygiene so as not to allow yourself to become bored. To build in challenges.”

And yet, for all this, Drucker also recognized that it wasn’t simply a matter of employees seizing responsibility. It’s up to their employers to provide the systems and processes and culture for them to be able to do so. Heavy-handed, top-down organizations—those that “rest on command authority,” in Drucker’s words—don’t create the right dynamics for passion.

Neither do paternalistic ones, no matter how well intentioned. “Management has large responsibilities for the worker, which it cannot shirk,” Drucker wrote in Concept of the Corporation. “But the solution of the problem of function and status in the industrial system cannot be found in doing more for the worker, in giving him more social security . . . in looking after him better. It can only lie in giving him the responsibility and dignity of an adult.”
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“Those who perform love what they’re doing… Pianists have a wonderful expression I heard years ago: “I practice until I have my life in my fingers.”

~ From Peter Drucker’s transcript – 10 Ways to Create the Total Life


About JKS Talent Network

Janis Strathearn is an experienced business leader who has led high-performance organizations in a variety of industries and functional areas. Her specialty is supporting businesses build strength, knowledge and capacity at the Leadership and Management level within their Business and Technical groups.

Contact JKS Talent Network by email or call Janis @ (604) 731-2073  

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