Peter Drucker died yesterday at the age of 95 and American business lost one of its greatest thinkers and strongest supporters. I am sure glowing obituaries will pop up throughout the press – here is a link to the one I read – but no one will be able to fully capture the essence of this incredible, brilliant man.
His Concept of the Corporation has had a profound impact on manufacturing, written in the 1940’s it is the result of an exclusive inside look GM gave him into the inner workings of the company. Most noteworthy about it is Drucker’s intellectual honesty. Alfred Sloan allowed the project under the expectation that Drucker would sing the praises of the great company. It turned out that he praised what he believed had merit, and criticized that which he saw as problematic. It did not endear him to Sloan or GM management, and Sloan’s book written later is thought by many to be, in part at least, an attempt to rebut Drucker. Drucker’s book has endured, however, and is still regarded as one of the classic, essential management guides.
I was most influenced by Drucker’s The Emerging Theory of Manufacturing, an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 1990. In it he described supply chain theory and how manufacturing fits in, the essential nature of statistical quality, the requisite for lean accounting – many concepts we are just beginning to fully appreciate today. He was 80 years old when he wrote it with powerful clarity and foresight over fifteen years ago.
Most of all, he spent his career tirelessly pushing American management to think ahead and to improve. Most likely he is already staring to delve into the organizational structure and strategy deployment process in heaven, with plans to give the Creator a few tips on how to be best prepared for the next wave of immigrants.
This Austrian native gave more to us – his adopted country – than we could have ever asked, and he will be appreciated and missed by everyone who cares about American business.