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Summary Article: Drucker, Peter Ferdinand
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Austrian-born management expert, who emigrated to the USA in 1937 and worked as an economist and political scientist before starting a career as a professor of management in 1950. Through his writing and his work as a consultant to major corporations, Drucker was the first to recognize that management was a discipline worthy of formal study. He set out the theory of ‘management by objectives’ (MBO) in his classic The Practices of Management (1954).

Drucker was also responsible for the idea of ‘privatization’, although he referred to it as ‘reprivatization’, predicting in the 1950s when state ownership was the dominant ideology that governments would privatize their assets, that manual work would decline, and that the knowledge-based economy would emerge.

In The Future of Industrial Man (1942), Drucker claimed that the modern industrial corporation, which had replaced the old mercantile order of the 19th century, had failed to assume its social responsibilities. He identified the role of management in the modern company in a series of landmark works, beginning with Concept of the Corporation (1946), which was a study of the working of General Motors (GM) and his first detailed analysis of a company's operations. He concluded that GM, as a representative social institution of its time, should treat its employees as a resource and not just as a cost. The GM management resented the study and decreed that any man found reading it ‘better go work for Mr [Henry] Ford’.

In The Practices of Management, Drucker introduced ideas on a broad range of topics, including the role of marketing (‘there is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer’) and the importance of clear corporate objectives. In this book, and a later publication entitled Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973), he identified five fundamental functions for managers: to set objectives, to organize, to motivate and communicate, to measure performance, and to develop people. It argued for a central role for the manager, described as the educator and the ‘dynamic, life-giving element in every business’.

Drucker later concentrated on topics such as Innovation and Entrepreneurship (1985) and Managing the Non-profit Organization (1990), believing the latter concept and the emergence of knowledge workers (whose assets are their intellects) constitute major challenges for the 21st century.

Born in Vienna, Drucker studied for his doctorate in public and international law at the University of Frankfurt in Germany, while working as a newspaper reporter in the city. In 1933, sickened by dismissals of Jewish members of the faculty at the university and having seen a pamphlet he had written burned by the Nazis, he left Germany for the UK. He then worked as an economist for an international bank in London and attended Cambridge University seminars given by US economist John Maynard Keynes.

In 1937 Drucker moved to the USA as an adviser to UK banks doing business there and as a foreign correspondent for several UK newspapers. He published his first book The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism, an account of the rise of fascism after World War I and the Great Depression, in 1939. In 1942 he started his teaching career as a professor of politics and philosophy at Bennington College, becoming professor of management at the Graduate Business School of New York University from 1950. From 1971 until his death he was Clarke Professor of Social Sciences at Claremont Graduate University, which named its Graduate Management School after him in 1984.

He was honorary chair of the Peter F Drucker Foundation for Non-profit Management (Now the Leader to Leader Institute). His other publications include his autobiography, Adventures of a Bystander (1978), and Management Challenges for the 21st Century (1999). He was an editorial columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review.

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Drucker, Peter Ferdinand

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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