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Monday, November 2, 2015

Peter Drucker: The Guru of Modern Management

People come and people go. And thus the stage always gets filled with the ‘new’. Birth and death are eternally chasing each other. Punarapi jananam punarapi maranam“Again and again one is born, and again and again one dies” and this endless cycle is what is being witnessed ever since the planet earth became the abode of mankind. However, the planet has also witnessed that some do not die even in their death for their birth made so much difference to the rest of the living. One among such immortals is Peter Drucker.

Peter Drucker was a great thinker. He postulated many path-breaking management theories. He did not stop there; he presented all his thoughts in his writings and made them available in book form to all those in the businesses to help them handle their affairs with grace and finesse for bettering the society. His thoughts remained evergreen and he kept on writing till his last breath.

This singular contribution of Drucker to the world of modern management reminds us of what that noted Indian philosopher-writer Raja Rao once said, “Writing is my dharma; it is a ‘sadhana’, a mode of prayer”. Here, by “sadhana”, he meant “to try to be in contact with the ultimate reality”. Raja Rao also said, “It has been my endeavor all my life to be face-to-face with the ultimate”. These expressions echo what Drucker too lived for.

What an amazing contribution was Drucker’s to the concept of management! He shaped management thoughts; gave content to the management books; gave a direction to the very management thought process across the B-schools. He shaped the functioning of many organizations and their ceos by expounding the very grammar of management. As an ardent sadhaka of management, he made us savor the rasa—the richness and plenitude—of management through 31 books that he wrote. And “His writings are” praised as the “landmarks of the managerial profession” by Harvard Business Review.

Drucker, in the profoundest sense of the word, is a great management guru. True to the etymological meaning of the word guru—grunathi upadisathi ithi guru—Drucker made management look obvious in his various expositions: for instance, he said that “management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant”.

His book, The Practice of Management, published in 1954, is hailed as a classic that shaped our very thought of management and its practice.  Describing managers “as a distinct group in the contemporary enterprise”, Drucker, saying, “In a competitive economy … the quality and performance of the managers determine its survival”, placed the managers in the center of the success of businesses.

Today the whole world is buzzing with words such as ‘knowledge worker’, ‘knowledge economy’, etc. It is Drucker who first prophesized the emergence of knowledge workers and the need for a new outlook of management to deal with knowledge workers in his prophetic work—The Age of Discontinuity, which was published in the year 1969. He gave an apt and abiding description of the knowledge worker: “what a knowledge worker needs to be positively motivated is achievement; he needs a challenge; he needs to know that he contributes and he needs to be compensated with exceptional pay for his exceptional day’s work”. It is no exaggeration to say that nothing new has been added to this definition since then. He thus, as Warren Bennis said, emerged and remained as “The most important management thinker of our time.”

And suddenly, the Sadhaka of management, Peter Drucker, has silently withdrawn himself into an unknown abode forever. But the thoughts that he offered to the world will not remain silent. They would be constantly stirring up the minds of his successors for the generations to come. The platform he has created is sure to function as a springboard for many, many new ideas to pop up. And, in all those new versions of management, which might spin off from time to time, Drucker is sure to make his presence felt, albeit silently. He lives in the corridors of management forever.

How refreshingly philosophical was he in labeling the humdrum tasks that he wants everyone to address to deserve tomorrow—“tasks of patching the fabric of civilization rather than of designing a new garment…!” It is by committing ourselves to this task that we can rightfully salute the departed guru of management for all the immense wealth of knowledge he gave us.


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