Drucker, Peter F. 1909–2005

views updated

Drucker, Peter F. 1909–2005

(Peter Ferdinand Drucker)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born November 19, 1909, in Vienna, Austria; died November 11, 2005, in Claremont, CA. Management consultant, educator, and author. A giant in business management and consulting, disciplines he is credited by some as founding, Drucker, through his work as a consultant, writer, and teacher, profoundly influenced the way corporations are managed. Earning a degree from the University of Frankfurt in 1931, he began his career as a reporter and foreign and finance editor for the General Anzeiger newspaper. When a paper he published criticizing a popular economist was censored by the Nazis, however, he concluded that the climate in Germany was becoming dangerous. He moved to London and found work as an economist for the London Banking House from 1933 to 1936. He then moved to the United States, working as a newspaper correspondent and as an American-based advisor to British banks. Drucker began to impress the business community with such early books as The End of Economic Man: A Study of the New Totalitarianism (1939; new edition, 1995) and The Future of Industrial Man: A Conservative Approach (1942; new edition, 1965). These drew the attention of managers at General Motors (GM), who invited Drucker to be a consultant. After studying the automaker's corporate structure, Drucker published The Concept of the Corporation (1946; revised edition, 1972), which did not paint GM in a very positive light. Drucker objected to how businesses in America were organized at the time, saying that corporate leaders were too authoritarian. Instead, he believed in a decentralization of power and felt that managers needed to take better advantage of employees who possessed the most knowledge—"knowledge workers," as he called them. It was also Drucker who stated that managers should establish a series of objectives for employees and businesses; that employees should be valued as assets, not expenses; and that corporate executives should make decisions based on what is right for the company, not what will merely raise stock prices. His intriguing ideas, so many of which are accepted practice today, led him to be regarded by many as the father of modern-day business management and consulting. Although he sometimes erred, Drucker notably made numerous predictions about the world economy that proved correct. For example, as far back as the 1950s, he predicted that computer technology would profoundly change business; in the 1960s he foresaw the rise of Japan as a business superpower; and in 1997 he declared that people would soon lash out against corporate executives who gave themselves millions of dollars in salaries and stock options while simultaneously firing employees to improve their bottom lines. By 1940, Drucker was sharing his theories in the classroom as a professor of economics at Sarah Lawrence College. From 1942 to 1949, he was professor of philosophy and politics at Bennington College, and from 1950 until his 1972 retirement, he taught at New York University as a professor of management. He was also the founder of the first master's in business administration program in America, located at Claremont Graduate University. He founded the program in 1971, and in 2002 the management school was named in his honor. Many other awards were also given to Drucker over the years, including the 1987 Chancellor's Medal from the International Academy of Management, the 2001 Evangeline Booth award from the Salvation Army, and the 2002 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Drucker published over fifty books during his lifetime, including The Effective Business (1964), Managing in Turbulent Times (1980), Managing for the Future: The 1990s and Beyond (1992), and Managing the Next Society (2002). Interestingly, he also wrote two works of fiction: The Last of All Possible Worlds (1982) and The Temptation to Do Good (1984).



Chicago Tribune, November 12, 2005, section 1, pp. 1, 7.

Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2005, pp. A1, A23.

New York Times, November 12, 2005, p. A13

Times (London, England), November 16, 2005, p. 64.

Washington Post, November 12, 2005, p. B7.