The New York Times headline "Management Theorist Dies" seemed an inadequate descriptor of the man who, more than any other, shaped the way that our society--not merely management--came to behave over the past 50 years.
Theorist? Perhaps. But much of the way American society thinks and behaves today is a manifestation of Peter Drucker's insightful and pragmatic teachings on society. Owner-managers may have forgotten how much he influenced the very fabric of our society. Those who practiced what he taught have benefited profoundly by his wisdom. Many of those who dismissed his teachings as quaint or old fashioned did so at their own peril and have been on the front pages of the nation's tabloids of late.
Drucker's musings were the epitome of 'break-through thinking". He disliked "bigness"- be it in business or government. He believed that while globalization was beneficial, it is one of society's biggest challenges. His comment that "ounce for ounce, a mouse is bigger than an elephant" states in a curious way his disdain for bigness. He believed, and history has proven him correct, that short-term stock price goals and stock options incentivized managements to focus on the short term and that over time neither shareholders, employees, nor society would benefit. Well before their fall from grace, he wrote that Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and others were conspicuous examples of bad corporate governance.
Drucker was among the first to advocate that decentralization was essential to achieving growth and profitability. "Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution", he penned. He also disliked the idea that managers should merely be "problem solvers" and wrote, 'Solving a problem has little value because it places the organization where it ought to be in the first place. Value is created by exploiting opportunities, not solving problems." He was perhaps the first to preach that creating customers is the purpose of every business. Drucker also said, "Profits are not goals and cannot be mandated; rather profits are the result of meeting customers needs."
Drucker's tomes have served as a welcome beacon for owner-managers searching not only for a guiding set of principles with which to navigate corporate strategy, but more so the basic tenets of their careers and lives. Management "theorist"? Hardly. Peter Drucker's practical teachings on the fundamental building blocks of a better society have proven to be more profound than any economic thinker of our times. We shall miss you Peter Drucker. You are an original and no one can follow in your footsteps.
© The Bigelow Company LLC