Thinking Managers

Robert Heller of says the late Peter Drucker’s ideas have influenced all managers whether they know it or not.

Drucker’s Legacy

Peter Drucker died recently at the age of 95 but the legacy of the Austrian-born lecturer, consultant and writer will go on.

Drucker was an expert in the area of management theory and had many followers. He specialised in applied intelligence, that most powerful of management techniques. Using common sense, he discovered truths and drew correct conclusions from his observations.

Drucker was first and foremost a humanist who knew that a business needs to realise its human potential to be successful – something that cannot be measured or quantified.

However, Drucker did not shy away from hard figures or facts. He was first with the prediction of the knowledge worker’s unstoppable rise, using factual observation to inform his forecast.

The information that Drucker acted upon was available to all but he was able to project the observed present into a likely future.

Another fact observed by Drucker was mankind’s fallible nature, frequently leading to people acting against their own interests. He noted that human incompetence was the only inexhaustible commodity.

That might seem pessimistic but Drucker was an optimist who believed that improvement is possible in all areas, providing the right questions are used to find the right answers.

Drucker also believed that the study of both customers and non-customers was an essential measure in avoiding collapse.

He explained: “The first signs of fundamental change rarely appear within one’s own organisation or among one’s own customers.”

To say a business can’t exist without customers sounds like stating the obvious but Drucker was first to articulate this fact and in doing so inspired many a marketing pundit.

He believed in a simple management formula: Know what to do; know how to do it; DO IT.

The third point is in capitals because of its ultimate importance.

The knowledge of what to do has improved greatly since the publication of Drucker’s The Practice of Management in 1954, filling a gap in the market of useful management literature.

As I mentioned before, Drucker was a humanist who maintained that people should be treated as individuals and not robots.

His guidelines for recruitment set out four questions for the person doing the recruiting rather than the candidate:

      1) What has the candidate done well?
      2) What are they likely to do well?
      3) What do they have to learn to realise the full potential of their strengths?
      4) Would you let your son or daughter work under them?

Drucker’s advice frequently went against the accepted wisdom. Even the greatest managers and thinkers need challenge.

Drucker believed in teaching rather than preaching and was rightly wary of any management panacea or cure-all.

Plenty of managers will have Drucker’s wisdom to thank for their success in the future, whether they know it or not.

About the author
Robert Heller is one of the world’s best selling authors on business management.