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Peter Drucker: Great ideas, ignored.


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November 19, 2005

Peter Drucker: Great ideas, ignored.

Stephen Baker

I just read this week's BW cover story on management guru Peter Drucker, who died a week ago at age 95. The theme is that his ideas guide modern management. But as I read the list, I grew skeptical.

A couple samples:

-- 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 argued in the 1960s -- long before others -- for the importance of substance over style, for institutionalized practices over charismatic, cult leaders.

Who has embraced these ideas? Think about it. Charismatic cult leaders, from Larry Ellison to Hank Greenberg, have done just fine in the last five decades. Workers are now paid ever smaller fractions of the CEO's lordly salary. And for all the talk about respect for human capital, workers get dumped wholescale as investors applaud. I'd say Drucker, like an army chaplain, was the guy execs listened to reverently before returning to the brutish fray.

12:20 PM

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Most organizations also ignored this important argument about internet, "Internet itself should not be your strategy, but only as an enabler of core strategy". Everybody realized this principle of Drucker only after lost millions in the dotcom.

Posted by: Murali at November 19, 2005 01:27 PM

Peter Drucker is, as he himself once wrote about management sciences pioneer Mary Parker Follett, the “most quoted and least heeded” teacher of management.

Take just one of Drucker’s lessons. He criticized organizations who issued directives to “cut 5 or 10 percent from budgets across the board.” He said, “This is ineffectual at best and at worst, apt to cripple the important, result-producing efforts that usually get less money that they need to begin with.” Yet, when have you seen a company cut costs using Drucker’s clear distinctions between efficiency and effectiveness instead of the across-the-board cop out.

And I’ll bet others can find 100 additional quoted and ignored lessons from Peter Drucker just like that one.

Years ago I was told “performance is the proof that the learning took place.” If that’s true I’m sorry to say that despite all the tributes, we’ve learned very little from Peter Drucker.

Posted by: laurence haughton at November 23, 2005 10:02 AM

Drucker also believed in being widely informed (something the writers responsible for these quotes are certainly not):

"He was the first to assert that workers should be treated as assets, not as liabilities..."

"He originated the view of the corporation as a human community built on trust and respect for the worker and not just a profit-making machine..."

"He argued long before others for the importance of substance over style, for institutionalized practices over charismatic, cult leaders"

Drucker would never claim to have originated any of those things. His scholarship would have given credit where credit was due.

Posted by: laurence haughton at November 23, 2005 10:05 AM


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