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A Class with Drucker

The new academic year announces with interesting and demanding management topics. Noticeably there are different lecturers each with their own “lecturing” style. But what about the style of the World’s greatest management lecturer? In the following Book Review: A Class with Drucker: The Lost Lessons of the World’s Greatest Management Teacher, we share the insightful parts of Peter Drucker as a Lecturer for Doctoral Degree at the Claremont Graduate School.


Peter Drucker

Peter Ferdinand Drucker (November 191909November 112005) was a writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist.”  Widely considered to be the father of “modern management,” his 39 books and countless scholarly and popular articles explored how humans are organized across all sectors of society—in business, government and the nonprofit world. His writings have predicted many of the major developments of the late twentieth century, including privatization and decentralization; the rise of Japan to economic world power; the decisive importance of marketing; and the emergence of the information society with its necessity of lifelong learning. In 1959,  Some eminent management ideas of him are

  • The need to manage business by balancing a variety of needs and goals, rather than subordinating an institution to a single value.[19][20] This concept of management by objectives forms the keynote of his 1954 landmark “The Practice of Management”.[21]
  • A company’s primary responsibility is to serve its customers. Profit is not the primary goal, but rather an essential condition for the company’s continued existence

“He was the creator and inventor of modern management,” said management guru Tom Peters. “In the early 1950s, nobody had a tool kit to manage these incredibly complex organizations that had gone out of control. Drucker was the first person to give us a handbook for that.”

The story of Peter Drucker is the story of management itself. It’s the story of the rise of the modern corporation and the managers who organize work. Without his analysis it’s almost impossible to imagine the rise of dispersed, globe-spanning corporations.

Drucker’s mind was an itinerant thing, able to wander in minutes through a series of digressions until finally coming to some specific business point. He could unleash a monologue that would include anything from the role of money in Goethe’s Faust to the story of his grandmother who played piano for Johannes Brahms, yet somehow use it to serve his point of view. “He thought in circles,” says Joseph A. Maciariello, who teaches “Drucker on Management” at Claremont Graduate University.

The corporation is my laboratory.

Part of Drucker’s genius lay in his ability to find patterns among seemingly unconnected disciplines. Warren Bennis, a management guru himself and longtime admirer of Drucker, says he once asked his friend how he came up with so many original insights. Drucker narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “I learn only through listening,” he said, pausing, “to myself.”

Drucker was a professor of politics and philosophy at Bennington when he was given the opportunity to study General Motors in 1945, the first time he peeked inside the corporation. His examination led to the publication of his groundbreaking book, Concept of the Corporation, and his decision, in 1950, to attach himself to New York University’s Graduate School of Business. It was around this time that Drucker heard Schumpeter, then at Harvard University, say: “I know that it is not enough to be remembered for books and theories. One does not make a difference unless it is a difference in people’s lives.”

The author of the Book

Class with Drucker - Book Cover 

William Cohen studied with management guru Peter Drucker while working toward his Ph.D. in executive management at Claremont Graduate School (now the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management). The lessons he learned from Drucker, he says, were life-changing, and in this book he aims to transmit to his readers the great man’s wisdom. In fact, Drucker took a somewhat different approach with his students from the one in his books and articles. Thus, Cohen builds upon and reinterprets many of Drucker’s insights and concepts. getAbstract particularly recommends this book to managers who are already Drucker fans and want to learn more – the book is really more like a CD of unreleased recordings by a great artist of the past than like an album of covers by a lesser artist.

 A Class with Drucker, Cohen shares many of Drucker’s teachings that never made it into his countless books and articles, ideas that were offered to his students in classroom or informal settings. Cohen expands on Drucker’s lessons with personal anecdotes about his teacher’s personality, lack of pretension, and interactions with students and others. He also shows how Drucker’s ideas can be applied to the real-world challenges managers face today. Now every reader can benefit from Drucker’s thoughts on such topics as:

* what everybody knows is frequently wrong * why everyone should approach problems with their ignorance * top executives should stay no longer than six years * some so-called menial tasks can only be done by the boss * what everyone needs to be an effective manager * why self-confidence is a necessity

Enlightening and intriguing, A Class with Drucker will enable anyone to gain from the timeless wisdom of the inspiring man himself.

“Bill Cohen was a singularly stimulating and attractive student from whom my colleagues on the faculty and I learned at least as much as we could teach him.” – Peter F. Drucker, 1983

Bill Cohen brings that laboratory of learning alive to those of us who didn’t have the pleasure, privilege or opportunity to sit at the feet of the master in Peter’s classroom.  One can feel the energy, the humor, the discipline, the interaction, the edge, the energy, the simplicity and the relevance of Peter’s practice of teaching.  This is a gift Bill has produced as a way of returning the favor and blessing of Peter’s friendship and caring for Bill over more 30 years. – Ira Jackson, Dean Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, Claremont Graduate University

Bill Cohen has given us a practical guide to some of Peter Drucker’s most essential teachings, but he has done so in a style that you don’t often find in a volume on management. This is a book marked by cherished memories, deep affection and a sense of joy—a student’s tender tribute to a master teacher. — – Rick Wartzman, director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University and co-author of The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire.

The Greatest Management Teacher

Drucker's class

Below are some extracts of the book, which while reading I took down in my notepad.

Drucker invariably did what he thought right. Each of his courses required several chart papers. Though he might have sixty students, he graded every single paper himself. He never used a teaching assistant to grade for him.

Peter did not rely on notes for his lectures. He would begin speaking on a topic he considered important that applied to the class subject matter. He would continue unless interrupted by a question or he decided to ask a question of his own. As his thoughts unfurled, depending on the events or the weather, his lectures might go anywhere. They frequently went off in unexpected directions, and yielded valuable lessons like unearthed diamonds. These gems might surprise and delight or could even bore his students on the rare occassions that the topic he selected was perceived as less interesting.

Sometimes he would get stuck. He could not remember on individual’s name, a company or perhaps where he was going to go with his lecture. Most speakers or instructors in this predicament just go somewhere else with their presentation. Not Peter, his eyes would roll up as if trying to find the information in a file, then invariably he would find it, and say exactly what he had intended.

Another sign of independence was that he did not always go by the clock. He completed his lectures when he was done, not when the clock said it was time.

Peter never began teaching any point without ensuring that you had the necessary facts to understand what followed.

I [the author] noticed that just everyone called him “Peter” and not “Drucker” or “Professor Drucker”. I [the author] discovered that this was his preferred form of address. He seemed to dislike any form of honorific or differential treatment.

Peter is quite unambiguous in diseminating his knowledge. He would state his proposition clearly, and then give examples to support his thesis. Never did Drucker told a story that did not have an important lesson for his listeners. Even in answer to a question which might have been asked merely to satisfy idle curiosity. Drucker never told stories to no purpose. He never wasted anyone’s time, especially his own or that of his students.

Word of thoughts

Personally I find it a great book to read. The chapters are short and contain very much interesting-to read the essence of Drucker in every page of the book. In order to increase (or rather start developing my managerial thinking), they way Bill Cohen describedPeter Drucker’s teaching methods and classroom stories are simply a gem. The book is a great gift, bringing Peter Drucker and his classroom alive for all of us who never had the privilege of a class with Drucker. Bill Cohen’s journey with Drucker adds a new dimension to our understanding and appreciation and keeps the Drucker legacy vibrant and alive for future generations.

Happy Reading!

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