The essential Drucker
14 November 2005
Peter Ferdinand Drucker, the man who defined management, foresaw the future and told us all about it, says Ashwin Tombat.
Writer, teacher, consultant and guru to the gurus; the man who foresaw the future and told us all about it, Peter Drucker, died on Friday 11 November, a few days short of his 96th birthday, at his home in Claremont, California.
If this is the age of ideas, the influence has been Drucker's. In the business firmament, managers (from aspiring graduates to veteran corporate professionals that included the likes of Jack Welch) have uttered his name unconsciously more times than they may ever be able to recall. Drucker specialised in strategy and policy not just for business but also for social sector organisations, better known in India as NGOs. He worked with the world's largest corporations, NGOs, small entrepreneurial companies, and with governments.
He authored 31 books, which have been translated into more than 20 languages. While 13 books deal with society, economics, and politics; 15 deal with management. Two are novels, one is autobiographical, and he co-authored a book on Japanese painting. He also made four films based on his books. He was a columnist for a number of influential periodicals in the US.
Peter Ferdinand Drucker was born 19 November 1909 in Vienna, Austria. He worked as a financial reporter in Frankfurt, Germany, while he earned a doctoral degree in public and international law at Frankfurt University, which he received in 1931. The next year, he published an essay on a leading conservative philosopher that offended the Nazi government. His pamphlet was banned. Worried by the Nazis, Drucker moved to London and worked for a bank. In 1937, he moved to the United States, where he became a correspondent for several British newspapers.
His first book: The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1939, was an examination of the roots of fascism. British prime minister Winston Churchill liked it, and made it compulsory reading for every new British officer. Guru he may have been, but Drucker's books were noted for their clarity and simplicity of thought. He studded them with unusual references - from Tang-dynasty China, seventh-century Byzantium to the 19th century novelist Jane Austen, his favourite writer.
Returning to academics, Drucker first taught part time at Sarah Lawrence College and then full time at Bennington College in Vermont. After the publication of his second book, The Future of Industrial Man in 1943, General Motors - then the world's largest company - invited him to study its corporate structure.