Management Guru Peter Drucker Passes Away
Peter F. Drucker, 95, who was often called the world's most influential business guru and whose thinking transformed corporate management in the latter half of the 20th century, died Nov. 11 at his home in Claremont, Calif. No cause of death was reported, but he was under hospice care. His work influenced Winston Churchill, Bill Gates, Jack Welch and the Japanese business establishment. His more than three dozen books, written over 66 years and translated into 30 languages, also delivered his philosophy to newly promoted managers just out of the office cubicle.
Mr. Drucker pioneered the idea of privatization and the corporation as a social institution. He coined the terms "knowledge workers" and "management by objectives." His seminal study of General Motors in 1945 introduced the concept of decentralization as a principle of organization, in contrast to the practice of command and control in business.
"There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer," he said 45 years ago. Central to his philosophy was the belief that highly skilled people are an organization's most valuable resource and that a manager's job is to prepare and free people to perform.
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I had wondered for some time what happened to Peter Drucker. I knew he was getting old and he had not been out in public for some time.
In 1995 when I still worked at Harvard Business School, I was acquainted with one of Professor Drucker's colleagues, Professor Chris Arygris, himself a well-known thinker on learning organizations. We were both walking to the parking lot after work one day, and I mentioned that I had reviewed Drucker's latest work. He said "oh, well that's a good thing. I'm certain it is a good book. But you know, I'm looking for someone to nominate for an award, and Peter [Drucker] refuses to be nominated anymore. He says he has more than enough plaques."
Drucker certainly influenced my thinking about management. Always I took to heart his expression, "the only way to know the future is to create it."
He will be missed, but his eternal rest is well-earned.