- Peter Drucker
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Think of any management idea that is fashionable today and the chances are that Peter Drucker was writing about it before you were born. He has to be at the front of any list of management thinkers, the guru of gurus, as he has been called.
I knew Peter Drucker on and off for many years. He was born in Vienna four years before the start of the First World War in 1914. He was, therefore, in his 95th. year when he died in 2005. He had been around a long time, so long that much of what sounded revolutionary, even absurd, when he first said it, has now become so familiar that we take it for granted. He is credited with inventing management, for instance. Before Drucker came along management was something people did, of course, but it wasn't something that people could talk about because it hadn't been defined.
Peter Drucker's first great contribution was to focus on management as a discipline in its own right. In so doing he has been credited with changing the face of industrial America. Drucker went on to invent many of the concepts that are now part of our common language. He was suggesting that government should privatize many of its functions long before any nation actually did it. The 'profit centre' and the 'knowledge worker' were concepts first used by him. He was the first to talk of 'discontinuity' the idea that the future is going to be
He invented the notion of 'management by objectives' and was writing about 'decentralization' at a time when most organizations were still behaving as if they were large country estates run by the owner. Yes, writing about it, because that is how Drucker saw himself, as a writer. He has written thirty or so books which, he said, had sold five or six million copies. Added to which there are literally hundreds of articles and essays. He was also teaching almost to the end, still talking to conferences by satellite from his Californian home and still, in his nineties, delivering two courses at the Business School named after him at Claremont University in California. "I learn by listening" he once told me, and added, "to myself". I thought he must be joking, in his quizzical way, but he was serious. He uses his books and lectures as a way to work out his ideas.