Some years ago, I was honored to be asked to moderate a symposium at Claremont Graduate University in California. I was told there would be close to 40 healthcare chief executive officers attending and that Peter Drucker would be the main speaker. I had never met Drucker, but at that time, he was considered the No. 1 expert on corporate management.
Therefore, being asked to moderate a symposium where Drucker would be the main attraction was indeed a high honor. To say I was excited and nervous would be an understatement. There were other speakers, of course, but the main event would be Drucker's lecture. Before I knew it, there I was introducing him to the assemblage in a lecture hall at the Claremont business school.
After my brief introduction, he strode to the front of the lecture hall and proceeded to give a riveting talk on the vitality and ingenuity of the American healthcare system. You could hear a pin drop as he spoke, and he went on for an hour before he gave way to questions. His performance was magnificent, and I will always remember his enthusiasm and energy even though, at that time, he was well into his 80s. So it was with a great deal of sorrow that I read of Peter Drucker's passing last month at age 95. There may never be anyone quite like him again because he was special to anyone involved in the day-to-day workings of business.
He believed in people, and that is why all of us should be grateful for his vision. He didn't look at organizations or corporations as inanimate objects; he looked at them as living entities full of individuals who made the company or organization function. There were a number of articles written about Drucker's passing, but one that I felt did him great justice was written by a reporter at one of our sister publications, Advertising Age. It seemed to capture the essence of what Drucker offered the business world.
The article cited John Quelch, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, who starts every lecture with this Drucker quote: "The purpose of a business is to acquire and retain a customer." Anybody in business who doesn't think that way probably is destined to fail as many businesses inevitably do.
Quelch says that another of his favorites is, "Strategy is a sense of direction around which to improvise."
Other Druckerisms cited in the Advertising Age article include:
* "Corporate cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you've got."
*"Management by objective works-if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don't."
Drucker wrote 39 books, including The End of Economic Man (1939), and Concept of the Corporation published in 1946. The latter was a book on General Motors Corp. that introduced the concept of "command and control" management style, decentralization and worker responsibility. More recently, he co-authored The Effective Executive in Action with Joseph Maciariello, which will be published January 2006.
The management guru was a native of Austria, born in Vienna on Nov. 19, 1909, to a wealthy family. He attended schools in Austria and England, earning a doctorate in 1931 from Frankfurt University. For 21 years, he was a professor of management at New York University's graduate business school. In 1971, Drucker bypassed the nation's most prominent business schools to teach at Claremont Graduate University, where he was a professor of social sciences and management. He taught there until 2002 and then went on to consult and write until his death.
Randall Rothenberg, senior director of intellectual capital at Booz Allen Hamilton, describes Drucker this way: "Drucker was, first and foremost, a synthetic thinker who drew from a wide range of disciplines as well as his own background as a journalist to explain not just how business worked but how people worked." He adds: "Every major breakthrough business book--from In Search of Excellence to Good to Great--derives from Peter Drucker's fundamental premise: People matter."
This country and this world have lost a great individual who in so many ways changed the world. Drucker believed in people's dignity, intelligence and resourcefulness. He also believed in substance, mission, vision and values. His philosophy of management made executives take notice and get back to the basics of taking care of the little things.
I will never forget the experience of moderating a symposium with Peter Drucker. That day, he had a listening device in each ear and glasses that were close to a quarter-inch thick, but he presented his talk with clarity, wit, charm, warmth and focus. He was one of the most effective advocates for the American healthcare system to whom I had ever listened. It's all there in his books and the new one that will be released in January. I believe it will be a must-read for anyone in management.
It's all about people,
Charles S. Lauer
Vice President-Publishing/Editorial Director