The Practical Drucker

Applying the Wisdom of the World's Greatest Management Thinker

The Practical Drucker

Author: William A. Cohen, Ph.D.
Pub Date: November 2013
Print Edition: $25.00
Print ISBN: 9780814433492
Page Count: 288
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814433508

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Some six years ago, I was at the Rosario University in Bogotá, Colombia, at the invitation of the faculty and administration to speak about Peter Drucker. The ancient Universidad del Rosario (which is its official name in Spanish) was founded in 1653 by Roman Catholic clergy and scholars under the authorization of King Philip IV of Spain. Harvard, the first U.S. college, is older (1636), but not by much. Nowadays, Rosario University is far more secular and holds an important place in Colombian history, such that it is known as “The Cradle of the Republic.” Twenty-eight of Colombia’s presidents have been its students. Some say a few more probably attended before accurate records started being kept. I was honored to be invited to speak at such an illustrious institution.

A Spanish translation of my book A Class with Drucker had recently been published in Bogotá. There was some buzz, since Peter Drucker’s business genius was receiving great attention in Colombia, as it was in many other countries. In addition to my speaking in the morning, I was to join my colleague Dr. Joe Maciariello, from the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Graduate School of Management at California’s Claremont Graduate University, on a panel to discuss Drucker’s teachings. One senior executive on that panel had read my book; he commented that while he had read many of Drucker’s books, what struck him as different about mine was how much easier it made it to apply Drucker’s concepts. I thanked him and suggested that this might have to do with some peculiarities of translation into Spanish, but that I was happy to take the credit and was going to quote him to my wife as soon as possible.

After some reflection, I began to understand what he meant. It wasn’t that Drucker wrote poorly. On the contrary, Drucker made his living from his writings for general interest magazines long before he became a consultant. Nor was it that Drucker wasn’t specific about what he wrote. Indeed, Drucker was very specific in both his speeches and his writings. However, while Drucker was definitely application-oriented, rather than theoretically oriented, he focused on what to do but he rarely wrote about how to do it.

In his consulting work, Drucker apparently did even less explaining. One of his clients described to me how difficult it was to understand Drucker: “Unlike other consultants, he didn’t tell us either what to do or how to do it. Rather, he asked us questions that we were supposed to answer.” He went on to explain: “Eventually we realized how effective this technique was and the genius behind it. He made us grasp his ideas on our own. This was far more helpful in our applying them; however, it was slow going at first, and doing this based on his writings was sometimes even more difficult.”

My first stab at professional writing involved my Air Force specialty of navigation. The intention was to write for navigation journals, providing clear instructions that could be read and understood in several different countries. This simple goal in writing has been carried forward to my books on business, management, and strategy. That is, “how-to-do-it” discussions are usually easier to comprehend than “what-to-do” discussions. So, for better or worse, this is what you will find in The Practical Drucker.

Drucker’s powerful observations about people and the organizations in which they worked sometimes took the form of deceptively simple truths and astute predictions. Concepts such as decentralization, outsourcing, the rise of the knowledge worker, viewing employees as assets, a focus on the customer, marketing as different from selling—it was Peter Drucker who first expressed every one of these ideas, sometimes decades before they became the accepted wisdom they are today. In the same way, he predicted our current financial challenges years before they occurred.

What I have done in The Practical Drucker is to mine Drucker’s vast body of work to explain forty of his most important concepts and truths: keys for solving real-world problems and fundaments for today’s effective management and keen leadership. However, I have carried his ideas a step further: I explain not only what needs to be done to implement his concepts but also how to go about doing this implementation. If there are mistakes here, they are mine. The genius is pure Drucker.

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