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Peter Drucker: A Resource Guide

This guide provides background and further reading on the influential managment thinker Peter Drucker, often described as "the inventor of modern management."

Introduction

Peter Drucker.External Photo courtesy of the School of Management, Drucker Archives, Claremont Graduate University.

Peter Drucker was born on November 19, 1909 External in Vienna and when he died on November 11, 2005, just eight days short of his 96th birthday, Peter F. Drucker was often described as the inventor of modern management. His books have stood the test of time, and are still considered some of the best business books to read on management and leadership. Here are three notable examples (with links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog):

  • The End of Economic Man published in 1939 was a socio-economic explanation of fascism that so impressed Winston Churchill that he put it on the British army's official reading list.
  • The Effective Executive published in 1967, ranked No. 1 in a Wall Street Journal article, "Keep On Druckin' Blue-chip Books on Business Management" by Ken Ronan, March 17, 2007.
  • The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask about your Organization, is a quick read and a self-assessment tool based on the following five questions which many organizations use today to measure success independent of profit margins:
    • Question 1: What Is Our Mission?
    • Question 2: Who Is Our Customer?
    • Question 3: What Does the Customer Value?
    • Question 4: What Are Our Results?
    • Question 5: What Is Our Plan?

In a 1980 article, the Harvard Business Review published "Why Read Peter Drucker" External  (reprinted in 2009) that says "For the most part, however, Drucker’s books command attention neither for their stock of aphorisms nor for their mastery of technical computation. Ears perk up, rather, to catch the wisdom of Drucker’s animating ideas." It answers the question posed in the title by saying:

To be sure, few of these ideas are original with Drucker. Even fewer have escaped treatment in at least a dozen management texts. Yet there is always a value in reencountering sensible thought sensibly put. But if the substance of his books is neither original nor unique, if what they offer at best is no more or less than the readily paraphrasable content of his thinking, why bother to read them? Why, in short, read Peter Drucker and not a streamlined digest of his major ideas?

The answer is simple: Drucker’s real contribution to managerial understanding lies not so much in the cash value of his ideas as in the rigorous activity of mind by which they are formulated. One can learn more—and more deeply—from watching him think than from studying the content of his thought.

Jack Beatty's biography of Drucker entitled, The World According to Peter Drucker, states "Mr Drucker .. has tried for 60 years to take the capital out of capitalism... He discusses economic life in terms of values, integrity, character, knowledge, vision, responsibility, self-control, social integration, teamwork, community competence, social responsibility, the quality of life, self-fulfilment, leadership... dignity, meaning-but rarely money." Peter Drucker assumed the offensive against shameless greed in the boardroom. This lesson still rings true today.