Laurence Haughton on Peter Drucker

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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 century.”

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 of management.

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.


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This page contains a single entry by Christian Sarkar published on November 17, 2005 5:28 PM.

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