A Class with Drucker

The Lost Lessons of the World's Greatest Management Teacher

A Class with Drucker

Author: William A. Cohen, Ph.D.
Pub Date: March 2009
Print Edition: $17.95
Print ISBN: 9780814414187
Page Count: 272
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814409541

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Peter Drucker was a true genius—an amazing individual who changed modern management forever. He wrote forty books and numerous articles. There are thousands of references to him and his work, hundreds of articles about him, and several books, too. Why then this book? Although so much has been written about Drucker, his consulting work, and his philosophies, little has been written about how or what he taught in the classroom.

Peter Drucker was my professor in probably the first executive PhD program in management in academic history. I was his student from 1975 to 1979, and the first graduate of this program at Claremont Graduate School, which today is known as the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management and is part of Claremont Graduate University. This was a program to which Peter committed his life from the first class. Our relationship continued through the years until shortly before his death.

To say that I learned much from Peter Drucker would be a gross understatement. What he taught literally changed my life. When I met him I was a young struggling ex–Air Force officer only recently involved in business management, with no academic experience at all. Beginning with my graduation from Claremont’s program, and following many of Peter’s lessons that are contained in this book, I was re-commissioned in the Air Force Reserve and rose to the rank of major general. I entered academia and eventually became a full professor and a university president, even teaching several times at my alma mater as an adjunct professor. In fact, at one time when Peter was not teaching at Claremont in 1985, and I was, he allowed me to use his office. I became an author and wrote books which were published in eighteen languages. Peter was generous enough to call my books “scholarly.” For all this, though he would deny it, I credit Peter Drucker.

A Class with Drucker contains my recollections of what it was like to be in a Drucker class as a Drucker student during this early period. I have used my notes, old papers, and other information to reconstruct some of his lectures and our conversations to give the reader the best picture possible of how things actually were. I have tried to come close to capturing his actual words, but in any case, I believe I achieved the spirit of what he said and how he said it. My aim is to put the reader in the classroom as if he were there with me at the time hearing Drucker and participating in every interaction I had with him.

I debated whether to re-read Peter’s books before writing this book. I decided not to do so in order not to corrupt my perception of what he taught at the time. I occasionally referred to my well-worn copy of Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices to jog my memory about a particular lesson, as this was our only textbook when I was his student, and even this volume was not always helpful, since much of what Drucker taught in the classroom was not in his books, or had a somewhat different emphasis.

I didn’t want to stop with just what Peter taught, but what I did with his knowledge. Peter did not tell us how to do things. He frequently taught as he consulted, by asking questions. That showed us what to do and got us thinking how to do it ourselves. So, after explaining Peter’s lesson, I have tried to bridge this final gap by giving the reader my interpretation of what Peter meant and how I used and applied his teaching, and perhaps how the reader can as well.

The first chapter of the book tells much of my background at the time and how I came to be the first executive doctorial graduate of the “Father of Modern Management.” The second chapter sets the background of the Drucker classroom and explains how Peter taught. Chapters 3 through 19 cover a variety of Peter’s lessons, from “What Everyone Knows is Frequently Wrong” (Chapter 3) to “Drucker’s Principles of Development” (Chapter 19), and how to apply them.

Peter Drucker was a man not only of great ability and insight, but of great integrity. I have tried to be true to his story and my own as his student. At this point, Peter would have said, “Enough. If your book is worth anything, let’s get on with it.” I hope you agree that it is.

Bill Cohen—June, 2007


Excerpted from A Class with Drucker by William A Cohen. Copyright © 2008 by William a Cohen. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.

All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.

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