Simple and insightful

Updated: Nov 16 2005, 05:30am hrs
Peter Drucker gave a big push to the evolution of management as an independent disciplinea field of study in itself. Thinkers such as Frederick Taylor, Henri Fayol, the Gilbreths, Barnard and Roethlisbergerhad laid the foundations. But each one of them contributed to one of the streams. Drucker integrated all that into one comprehensive process of management.

Drucker is a prolific writer as well. One measure is his 39 books and hundreds of articles. He was persuasive, partly because he wrote in simple, jargon-free language. He took a holistic view of the business enterprise. This helped him empathise with corporate top managements. Chairmen and directors felt here was a management expert who understood the real world of business.

Drucker was not an eli-tist though. He stressed the importance of each and every employee, the need for delegation, participation, involvement and contribution. He coined the term knowledge worker.

He challenged managements to look outward first. He stressed the importance of the customer. He even defined the purpose of a business as to create and retain a customer. Later gurus like Philip Kotler, John Howard and Jagdish Sheth developed this idea into the field of marketing. Drucker emphasised the need to match and better the competition. This was elaborated by strategy gurus such as Michael Porter and CK Prahalad.

Drucker took interest in social issues. As early as 1939, he wrote his first book, The End of Economic Man. He was disillusioned by the macro crises and failures of political parties and governments. Gandhiji had earlier expressed a similar conviction, that the peasants, workers and entrepreneurs of India will do well if the British, and later, the Indian government got off their backs. Drucker also advocated corporate social responsibility. He extended the application of management to government institutions, such as municipalities and autonomous bodies.

Communication was one of Druckers great strengthsboth written and oral. He was a journalist for some years. He wrote a monthly column for the Wall Street Journal (1975-1995). As globalisation advanced, Drucker took more interest in two themesentrepreneurship and innovation. This was a natural outcome of his social concerns. Drucker kept moving beyond his early classics with the Concept of the Corporation (1946) and The Practice of Management (1954). The latter was my first introduction to management, before I went to Stanford and Harvard in the 1960s.

He went through his share of disillusionment. Like Juran in quality, Drucker felt that many of his concepts were fully practised by US companies only after the Japanese had used them to challenge the West!

He wasnt greatly respected by business academics. But he appealed to a wider public. He will continue to do so.

The author is an independent consultant