Farewell Professor Drucker (1909-2005)

22 Nov

When its time for you to go, as that time will most certainly come,
Ultimately what matters is not your success, but your significance…

Peter Drucker was undoubtedly the most significant management philosopher of all time.

His writing spanned well over half a century, a period during which technologies, markets and organizations changed dramatically, yet his insights were always fresh and pertinent. Professor Drucker had the ability to cut through what seemed to many to be highly complex organizational and managerial issues and identify the basics.

A humble man, he said “I’m totally uninteresting. I’m a writer, and writers don’t have interesting lives. My books, my work, yes. That’s different.”

No one who knew him agreed with the first part; even those (like me) who dipped into his enormous body of work agree with the second.

The body is gone; the spirit lives on… in the heart of the countless millions who find business an exciting, enticing, passionate adventure…

Thank you, Peter Drucker!


Jim Collins wrote in his foreword to The Daily Drucker:
“Drucker’s primary contribution is not a single idea, but rather an entire body of work that has one gigantic advantage: nearly all of it is essentially right. Drucker has an uncanny ability to develop insights about the workings of the social world, and to later be proved right by history.”

Tom Peters wrote:
“…Peter Drucker didn’t “invent” management. The Chinese probably did thousands of years ago—among other things, Sun Tzu’s roughly 2,500-year-old The Art of War is a full-blown “management” text. So, too, Machiavelli’s The Prince. And Frederick Taylor’s century-old The Principles of Scientific Management.
But Peter Drucker did arguably
(1) “invent” modern management as we now think of it;
(2) give the study and craft of management-as-profession credibility and visibility, even though biz schools like Harvard had been around for a long time; and
(3) provide a (the first?) comprehensive toolkit-framework for addressing and even mastering the problems of emergent enterprise complexity.
And he did something else incredibly important: He popularized the study of-appreciation of modern management.
Drucker’s historical significance will rest on works such as The Concept of the Corporation (1946), The Practice of Management (1954) and The Effective Executive (1967), which are the tracts that launched the “practice of management” as we know it to this day—and probably as we will know it for decades to come.”

Knowledge@Wharton said:
“Drucker studied management — in fact, he discovered it and taught how it can make a difference to society. In doing so, he has left our world the richer for the knowledge he created and shared.”

Dan Pink writes:
“But Drucker’s greatest legacy is not so much what he said. It’s how he lived. Forget the brilliance of his thought. Look at the texture of his life. The man was a glorious role model.
Three examples:
· He worked his butt off and never became complacent. With all his accomplishments, Drucker could have started phoning it in 30 years ago. He didn’t. He pushed and pushed and pushed. He wrote more than a dozen books after he turned 65! Amazing.
· He was a non-stop learner. Drucker said that every few years he liked to master a new subject. That’s why this Austrian guy with a law degree and penchant for economics decided to study . . . Japanese art. He became an expert, of course. But more important than this particular expertise was the broader lesson: There’s always more to learn and the most valuable learning often exists outside the cramped cabin of “management.” Drucker’s long life proved the principle: Being curious is the only way to be fully alive.
· He devoted himself to a higher cause. The essence of Drucker’s philosophy was that, at its best, business could be about something noble. Business (in contrast to centralized government, which he once called “obese, muscle-bound, and senile”) offered a powerful way to liberate human potential and elevate our lives. He counseled companies not only to perform better, but also to be better. And he pressed himself to be better as well. He devoted much of his later life to advising non-profit groups (though he often made them write a check he never cashed so they knew the full value of his advice.) Drucker lived modestly, but his reason for living wasn’t modest at all: He wanted to change the world.”

Business Pundit says:
“He asked questions to which the answers seemed obvious, but upon closer examination we realized they weren’t what we thought.”

Evolving Excellence said:
“Most of all, he spent his career tirelessly pushing American management to think ahead and to improve. Most likely he is already staring to delve into the organizational structure and strategy deployment process in heaven, with plans to give the Creator a few tips on how to be best prepared for the next wave of immigrants.”

Economist said:
“He changed the course of thousands of businesses. He spawned two huge revolutions at General Electric—first when GE followed the radical decentralisation he preached in the 1950s, and again in the 1980s when Jack Welch rebuilt the company around Mr Drucker’s belief that it should be first or second in a line of business, or else get out. Yet Mr Drucker is also cited as a muse by both the Salvation Army and the modern mega-church movement. Wherever people grapple with tricky management problems, from big organisations to small ones, from the public sector to the private, and increasingly in the voluntary sector, you can find Mr Drucker’s fingerprints…
… These days management theory is increasingly dominated by academic clones who produce papers on minute subjects in unreadable prose. That certainly does not apply to a man who claimed that the academic course that most influenced him was on, of all things, admiralty law…
… Management theory has not evolved into the world’s most rigorous or enticing intellectual discipline. But in Peter Drucker it at least found a champion whom every educated person should take the trouble to read.”

BusinessWeek called him The Man Who Invented Management, noting that:
“– It was Drucker who introduced the idea of decentralization — in the 1940s — which became a bedrock principle for virtually every large organization in the world.
— He was the first to assert — in the 1950s — that workers should be treated as assets, not as liabilities to be eliminated.
— He originated the view of the corporation as a human community — again, in the 1950s — built on trust and respect for the worker and not just a profit-making machine, a perspective that won Drucker an almost godlike reverence among the Japanese.
— He first made clear — still the ’50s — that there is “no business without a customer,” a simple notion that ushered in a new marketing mind-set.
— He argued in the 1960s — long before others — for the importance of substance over style, for institutionalized practices over charismatic, cult leaders.
— And it was Drucker again who wrote about the contribution of knowledge workers — in the 1970s — long before anyone knew or understood how knowledge would trump raw material as the essential capital of the New Economy.”

Wall Street Journal has a great section devoted to his opinion pieces at

In 1999, the WSJ published the following on the occasion of his 90th birthday:
“Drucker is famous for a series of questions: What is our business? Who is the customer? What does the customer value? The answers to those questions, asked by generations of managers around the globe, became known as “the theory of the business.” … The most distinctive hallmark of the managerial mindset is that it operates from that theory. Major decisions and initiatives all become tests of the theory. Profits are important in part because they tell you whether your theory is working. If you fail to achieve the results you expected, you re-examine your model. It is the managerial equivalent of the scientific method, starting with hypotheses which are then tested in action, and revised when necessary.”

Please Also see:
Claremont University: The Legacy of Peter Drucker
Fortune: Peter Drucker – An Appreciation
Business Library: Obituaries

For some more insight into the man & his works, refer Drucker Archives at

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Posted by on November 22, 2005 in Biz/Tech, Life, Thoughts


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