Magazine

Peter Drucker: Paying Tribute To The Man And His Vision


I spent eight hours hiking in Colorado with Peter Drucker during the summer of 1986 ("The man who invented management," Cover Story, Nov. 28). As an IBM (IBM) manager, I was initially awed being with the godlike guru who could not only relate conversations with Thomas Watson Sr. but also provide insights into just about any subject (e.g., overpaying "average" baseball players). But what struck me was that he felt he couldn't measure up within his own family -- he didn't think he'd gained their respect. They were all accomplished scholars and here he was -- gulp -- in the business world.

We can take heart from this: You can still succeed even though you're not the most admired in the family.

Dick Tunstall

Trumbull, Conn.

It was Drucker who invented management. But Jack Welch didn't invent a long-standing General Electric Co. (GE) business guideline you give him credit for. When I joined GE in 1960, about the same time Welch did, the company had a comprehensive formal and informal management development program. One principle taught in several of the courses was that GE should strive to be No. 1 or No. 2 in a market or business or get out. My training and tenure with GE took place in the 1960s. My departure from GE was directly as a result of this dictum. GE's top management decided that it would not invest the half-billion dollars forecast to reach leadership in the computer business. Along with several thousand other GE employees, I found myself employed by Honeywell Inc. in 1970.

John Blair

Carefree, Ariz.

What a wonderful tribute to Peter Drucker. He was correct that the success of a manager depends on putting the interest of the organization and customers ahead of his or her own. He was also correct in his prophecy that modern corporate executives' greed will be the downfall of America's economic dominance. How great would it be if his advice were heeded so that no CEO could make more than 20 times the income of a rank-and-file employee? I would add one more suggestion: a law that in no company that lacks a sound health and pension fund can a director earn more than $100,000 a year.

Gert Aron

Boalsburg, Pa.

Evidently, drucker kept his conservative roots all the way through his life. I don't blame him for being concerned about golden parachutes. If General Motors Corp. (GM) had paid attention to his concerns, it wouldn't have ended up being close to bankruptcy. What took place only emphasizes the truth of the article "Small investors, sitting ducks" (Viewpoint, Sept. 12) by Robert Kuttner. All investors could be in real trouble if we don't pay attention.

LaVern F. Isely

Monroe, Wis.

We shouldn't forget "the woman who invented management," particularly when Peter Drucker is said to have referred to her as his "guru": Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933). Rising to prominence as a management consultant in the 1920s, she is generally recognized as the originator of management concepts based on human relationships, teamwork, win-win solutions, leadership through shared purpose, and what would come to be called knowledge work.

Matthew Shapiro

President

Mary Parker Follett Foundation

Boise, Idaho

You note that Drucker was a teacher of religion and focused his later work on nonprofits, but there is something more explicit in his belief system: Drucker was a practicing Christian. He recognized that today's pastoral or "megachurches" are, in his words, "the most important social phenomenon in American society in the past 30 years." In the early 1990s he told religious leaders that the key question for churches is, "Can we create enough disciples?" While Drucker may have been Ronald Reagan-like in that he was not one to publicly declare his religious beliefs, from his famous humility to his desire to make a difference in people's lives, clearly Peter Drucker's Christian faith was a guiding source of truth in his life and work.

Bill Getch

Roswell, Ga.

It is not surprising that Tom Peters wasn't exposed to Peter Drucker in his PhD program. A few years after completing my MBA in 1964 and then my PhD at the Wharton School, I was assigned to teach a beginning management class at a major state university. Having been introduced to Drucker in the first business course I took as an MBA student at Wharton, I chose three Drucker books to constitute the course readings: Concept of the Corporation, The Practice of Management, and The Effective Executive. The students kept asking about the absence of a textbook and my colleagues thought "nonacademic" material should not be included in the course.

F. Marion Fletcher

Statesboro, Ga.

Your book review "Big Army just doesn't get it" (Books, Oct. 31) is right on the money. What will turn the tide in a deployment anywhere in the world is the interaction of one human being with another. This is done by voice. On the front in all actions are junior and senior enlisted personnel and junior officers. When will the brass get it and give these dedicated youngsters a basic (pick your number) 200-word vocabulary in the language of those they will encounter? Imagine being a U.S. soldier who is severely wounded, unable to move. A 5-year-old Iraqi boy walks by 10 feet away. If you can say "Help me" in his language, you have a chance of being saved. The big brass (who are never out in front) would prefer to skip the language training and have troops throw the kid a Hershey (HSY) bar. Spend 30 days giving soldiers the ability to communicate with people? That's nuts. Make them better marksmen? Hurrah!

Leonard Tewes

Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Re "The improbable flight of the Hornets" (Sports Biz, Nov. 21): There is one big problem for any NBA team playing in Oklahoma: One cannot legally get a tattoo in the state.

Jim Gorman

Palo Alto, Calif.

Re "E-mail is so five minutes ago" (Working Life, Nov. 28): Responses collected from our ongoing WhiteCollar Productivity Index (WPI) survey of time spent in the workplace indicate that the average executive in the U.S. is receiving 200 e-mails per day after spam is extracted and that 50% of those e-mails (again after spam is extracted) are of no value to the receiver. Administrative and newer staff receive an average of 50 e-mails a day, with about 30% being of no value.

The scary part is that all of these valueless e-mails still have to be dealt with. So an organization of 1,000 people will waste about 36,000 hours per year, at a cost of $1.8 million in productivity, just to scan and discard these intrusions.

Bary C. Sherman

Institute for Business Technology-USA Fallbrook, Calif.


Later, Baby
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