I received an email from Laurence
Haughton, the author, on Peter Drucker.
With his permission, here it is:
It is now five days since Peter Drucker passed away and the tributes have
filled the air like so many streamers and confetti at a ticker tape parade.
According to columnists in journals and blogs Drucker was, “an American
sage,” “the uber-guru,” “profound,” and “a visionary.”
America’s two most popular business pundits agree. “[Drucker was]
the right man for our times,” wrote one. And the other was just as reverential,
“The most influential management thinker in the second half of the twentieth
But I don’t see it that way.
If Drucker was “the most influential” shouldn’t he have changed
a lot of executive behavior? If he truly was “profound” or the “right
man for our times” wouldn’t he have a lot of followers who practice
what he prescribed?
Peter Drucker is, as he himself once wrote about management sciences pioneer
Mary Parker Follett, the “most quoted and least heeded” teacher
Why he is so quoted is easy to understand. Pick up anything he wrote. I just
went back and skimmed through 1964’s “Managing for Results.”
You’ll find Drucker is incredibly insightful yet totally clear and practical.
He’s no ivory tower theorist. Drucker explains exactly what to do and
what not to do, giving systematic, logical, and consistent answers to all
the fundamental challenges of management. If you are opining about management,
he’s a perfect source to quote.
But as far as being heeded… I don’t think so. What company is managed
according to his prescriptions? What leader follows his clear, specific advice?
Frankly, is there anyone who gives him anything more than lip service?
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, up to now, we’ve learned very little from Peter Drucker.