Peter Drucker

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Peter Ferdinand Drucker (November 19 1909November 11 2005) was an Austrian-born American writer, management consultant and university professor. In 1943 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He taught at New York University and Claremont Graduate University respectively.



The End of Economic Man (1939)[edit]

  • This is a political book... It has a political purpose: to strengthen the will to maintain freedom against the threat of its abandonment in favor of totalitarianism.
    • Foreword, p. xxxv
  • Fascism is the result of the collapse of Europe's spiritual and social order... catastrophes broke through the everyday routine which makes men accept existing forms, institutions and tenets as unalterable natural laws. They suddenly exposed the vacuum behind the facade of society.
    • p. 24
  • Capitalism as a social order and as a creed is the expression of the belief in economic progress as leading toward the freedom and equality of the individual in a free and open society. Marxism expects this society to result from the abolition of private profit. Capitalism expects the free and equal society to result from the enthronement of private profit as supreme ruler of social behavior...
    • p. 37
  • There is an unbroken chain of opposition to the introduction of economic freedom and to the capitalist autonomy of the economic sphere... In every case the opposition could only be overcome - peacefully or by force - because of the promise of capitalism to establish equality... That this promise was an illusion we all know.
    • p. 39
  • With Christianity, freedom and equality became the two basic concepts of Europe; they are themselves Europe.
    • p. 50
  • [The masses] … must turn their hopes toward a miracle. In the depths of their despair reason cannot be believed, truth must be false, and lies must be truth. "Higher bread prices," "lower bread prices," "unchanged bread prices" have all failed. The only hope lies in a kind of bread price which is none of these, which nobody has ever seen before, and which belies the evidence of one's reason.
    • p. 84


  • If war production should remain the only way out of a long-term depression, industrial society would be reduced to the choice between suicide through total war or suicide through total depression.
    • Concept of the Corporation (1945)
    • Note: compare Dwight Eisenhower's January, 1961 Farewell Speech

The Future of Industrial Man (1942)[edit]

  • No society can function as a society, unless it gives the individual member social status and function, and unless the decisive social power is legitimate.
    • p. 28
  • In the modern corporation the decisive power, that of the managers, is derived from no one but the managers themselves controlled by nobody and nothing and responsible to no one. It is in the most literal sense unfounded, unjustified, uncontrolled and irresponsible power.
    • p. 64
  • Unless the power of the corporation can be organized on an accepted principle of legitimacy, it will... be taken over by a Central government...
    • p. 96
  • We have only one alternative: either to build a functioning industrial society or see freedom itself disappear in anarchy and tyranny.
    • p. 96
  • Unless we realize that the essence of Nazism is also an attempt to solve a universal problem of Western civilization - that of the industrial society - and that the basic principles on which the Nazis base this attempt are also in no way confined to Germany, we do not know what we fight for or what we fight against... The war is being fought for the structure of industrial society--its basic principles, its purposes, and its institutions.
    • p. 107-108
  • Political freedom is neither easy nor automatic, neither pleasant nor secure. It is the responsibility of the individual for the decisions of society as if they were his own decisions--as in moral truth and accountability they are.
    • p. 115


The New Society (1950)[edit]

  • For if this country... were to make its defense program a function of its domestic employment situation, it would become impossible to conduct a constructive and well-thought out foreign policy or to develop any lasting collaboration.
  • That the government's power under the Taft-Hartley Act to stop a strike by injunction so clearly strengthens the hand of the employer--even though it is used only when a strike threatens the national health, welfare, or safety--is a grave blemish and explains much of union resistance to the Act.
  • We still think and talk of the basic problems of an industrial society as problems that can be solved by changing the system, that is the superstructure of political organization. Yet the real problems lie within the [industrial] enterprise. ...our representative institution... a mirror in which we look when we want to see ourselves.
  • The major incentive to productivity and efficiency are social and moral rather than financial.
  • What the worker needs is to see the plant as if he were a manager. Only thus can he see his part, from his part he can reach the whole. This "seeing" is not a matter of information, training courses, conducted plant tours, or similar devices. What is needed is the actual experience of the whole in and through the individual's work.

The Practice of Management (1954)[edit]

  • Free enterprise cannot be justified as being good for business. It can be justified only as being good for society.
    • p. 41
  • The days of the 'intuitive' manager are numbered.
  • A man should never be appointed into a managerial position if his vision focuses on people's weaknesses rather than on their strengths.
    • p. 157
  • The better a man is, the more mistakes will he make - for the more new things he will try. I would never promote a man into a top level job who had not made mistakes, and big ones at that. Otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.
    • p. 147
  • It does not follow from the separation of planning and doing in the analysis of work that the planner and the doer should be two different people. It does not follow that the industrial world should be divided into two classes of people: a few who decide what is to be done, design the job, set the pace, rhythm and motions, and order others about; and the many who do what and as they are told.
    • p. 284
  • It does not matter whether the worker wants responsibility or not, ...The enterprise must demand it of him.
    • p. 304
  • The fundamental reality for every worker, from sweeper to executive vice-president, is the eight hours or so that he spends on the job. In our society of organizations, it is the job through which the great majority has access to achievement, to fulfillment, and to community.
    • p. 327
  • - A manager sets objectives - A manager organizes - A manager motivates and communicates - A manager, by establishing yardsticks, measures - A manager develops people.
    • p. 344
  • The company is not and must never claim to be home, family, religion, life or fate for the individual. It must never interfere in his private life or his citizenship. He is tied to the company through a voluntary and cancellable employment contract, not through some mystical or indissoluble bond.
    • p. 387
  • Capitalism is being attacked not because it is inefficient or misgoverned but because it is cynical. And indeed a society based on the assertion that private vices become public benefits cannot endure, no matter how impeccable its logic, no matter how great its benefits.
    • p. 392

Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)[edit]

  • We no longer even understand the question whether change is by itself good or bad, ...We start out with the axiom that it is the norm. We do not see change as altering the order... We see change as being order itself--indeed the only order we can comprehend today is a dynamic, a moving, a changing one.
    • p. 22
  • An organization belongs on a sick list when promotion becomes more important to its people than accomplishment of their job they are in. It is sick when it is more concerned with avoiding mistakes than with taking risks, with counteracting the weaknesses of its members than with building on their strength. But it is sick also when "good human relations" become more important than performance and achievement.
    • p. 93-94
  • The moment people talk of "implementing" instead of "doing," and of "finalizing" instead of "finishing," the organization is already running a fever.
    • p. 94
  • The individual needs the return to spiritual values, for he can survive in the present human situation only by reaffirming that man is not just a biological and psychological being but also a spiritual being, that is creature, and existing for the purposes of his Creator and subject to Him.
    • p. 126
  • In the political, the social, the economic, even the cultural sphere, the revolutions of our time have been revolutions "against" rather than revolutions "for"… On the whole throughout this period the man--or party--that stood for doing the positive has usually cut a pathetic figure; well meaning but ineffectual, civilized but unrealistic, he was suspect alike to [by both] the ultras of destruction and the ultras of preservation and restoration.
    • p. 111
  • [T]hroughout the ages to be educated meant to be unproductive.... our word "school" - and its equivalent in all European languages - derives from a Greek word meaning "leisure."
    • p. 115
  • Tomorrow everybody - or practically everybody - will have had the education of the upper class of yesterday, and will expect equivalent opportunities. That is why we face the problem of making every kind of job meaningful and capable of satisfying every educated man.
    • p. 121
  • The arts alone give direct access to experience. To eliminate them from education - or worse, to tolerate them as cultural ornaments - is antieducational obscurantism. It is foisted on us by the pedants and snobs of Hellenistic Greece who considered artistic performance fit only for slaves...
    • p. 144
  • In book subjects a student can only do a student's work. All that can be measured is how well he learns, rather than how well he performs. All he can show is promise.
    • p. 144
  • No matter how deeply wedded one may be to the free enterprise system (and I, for one, am wedded for life), one has to accept the need for positive government; one has to consider government action on a sizable scale as desirable rather than as a necessary evil.
    • p. 178
  • Communism is evil. Its driving forces are the deadly sins of envy and hatred.
    • p. 249
  • Through systematic terror, through indoctrination, through systematic manipulation of stimulus, reward, and punishment, we can today break man and convert him into brute animal... The first step toward survival is therefore to make government legitimate again by attempting to deprive it of these powers... by international action to ban such powers.
    • p. 258


  • Morale in an organization does not mean that "people get along together"; the test is performance not conformance.
    • The Effective Executive (1966)
  • Large organizations cannot be versatile. A large organization is effective through its mass rather than through its agility. Fleas can jump many times their own height, but not an elephant.
    • The Age of Discontinuity (1969)
  • The world economy is not yet a community--not even an economic community...Yet the existence of the "global shopping center" is a fact that cannot be undone. The vision of an economy for all will not be forgotten again.
    • The Age of Discontinuity (1969)


  • If "socialism" is defined as "ownership of the means of production"--and this is both the orthodox and the only rigorous definition--then the United States is the first truly Socialist country.
    • The Pension Fund Revolution (1976)
  • Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.
    • Adventures of a Bystander (1979) (Autobiography)

MANAGEMENT: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973)[edit]

  • Our society has become an employee society.
    • p. 4
  • Without institution there is no management. But without management there is no institution.
    • p. 5
  • We will have to learn to lead people rather then to contain them.
    • p. 30
  • A primary task of management in the developed countries in the decades ahead will be to make knowledge productive.
    • p. 32
  • [human types needed for top management tasks] ...the "thought man" …the "action man" …the "people man" …the "front man" …Yet those four temperaments are almost never found in one person. ...The one-man top management job is a major reason why business fail to grow.
  • An employer has no business with a man's personality. Employment is a specific contract calling for a specific performance... Any attempt to go beyond that is usurpation. It is immoral as well as an illegal intrusion of privacy. It is abuse of power. An employee owes no "loyalty," he owes no "love" and no "attitudes"--he owes performance and nothing else. .... The task is not to change personality, but to enable a person to achieve and to perform.
Part 1[edit]
  • A management decision is irresponsible if it risks disaster this year for the sake of a grandiose future.
    • Chapter 4, pg.43
  • The only thing we know about the future is that it is going to be different.
    • Chapter 4, pg.44
  • The concept of profit maximization is, in fact, meaningless.
    • Chapter 6, pg.59
  • Profit is not a cause but a result-
    • Chapter 6, pg.71
  • Success always obsoletes the very behavior that achieved it.
    • Chapter 7, pg.88
  • The basic definition of the business and of its purpose and mission have to be translated into objectives.
    • Chapter 8, pg.99
  • It is better to pick the wrong priority than none at all.
    • Chapter 9, pg.119
  • Decisions exist only in the present.
    • Chapter 10, pg.125
  • The fault is in the system and not in the men.
    • Chapter 12, pg.140
  • A success that has outlived its usefulness may, in the end, be more damaging than failure.
    • Chapter 14, pg.159
  • One cannot hire a hand; the whole man always comes with it.
    • Chapter 15, pg.169
  • As with every phenomenon of the objective universe, the first step toward understanding work is to analyze it.
    • Chapter 16, pg.182
  • "Loafing" is easy, but "leisure" is difficult.
    • Chapter 16, pg.185
  • The first step toward making the worker achieving is to make work productive.
    • Chapter 17, pg.199
  • When Henry Ford said, "The customer can have a car in any color as long as it's black," he was not joking.
    • Chapter 17, pg.209
  • A tool is not necessarily better because it is bigger. A tool is best if it does the job required with a minimum of effort, with a minimum of complexity, and with a minimum of power.
    • Chapter 18, pg.224
  • The society of organizations is new-only seventy years ago employees were a small minority in every society.
    • Chapter 21, pg.284
  • Management has authority only as long as it performs.
    • Chapter 23, pg.301
  • It has been said, and only half in jest, that a tough, professionally led union is a great force for improving management performance. It forces the manager to think about what he is doing and to be able to explain his actions and behavior.
    • Chapter 23, pg.303
  • And no matter how serious an environmental problem the automobile poses in today's big city, the horse was dirtier, smelled worse, killed and maimed more people, and congested the streets just as much.
    • Chapter 24, pg.317
  • Wherever an impact can be eliminated by dropping the activity that causes it, this is therefore the best-indeed the only truly good-solution.
    • Chapter 25, pg.333
  • The manager is a servant. His master is the institution he manages and his first responsibility must therefore be to it.
    • Chapter 26, pg.343
  • We do not need more laws. No country suffers from a shortage of laws. We need a new model.
    • Chapter 27, pg.364
Part 2[edit]
  • The worker's effectiveness is determined largely by the way he is being managed.
    • Chapter 29, pg.380
  • To be a manager requires more than a title, a big office, and other outward symbols of rank. It requires competence and performance of a high order.
    • Chapter 31, pg.398
  • A superior who works on his own development sets an almost irresistible example.
    • Chapter 33, pg.427
  • The purpose of an organization is to enable common men to do uncommon things.
    • Chapter 36, pg.455
  • Executives do many things in addition to making decisions. But only executives make decisions. The first managerial skill is, therefore, the making of effective decisions.
    • Chapter 37, pg.465
  • One has to make a decision when a condition is likely to degenerate if nothing is done.
    • Chapter 37, pg.475
  • The tool user, provided the tool is made well, need not, and indeed should not, know anything about the tool.
    • Chapter 40, pg.513
  • One reason for the tremendous increase in health-care costs in the U.S. is managerial neglect of the "hotel services" by the people who dominate the hospital, such as doctors and nurses.
    • Chapter 42, pg.539
  • The rule should be to minimize the need for people to get together to accomplish anything.
    • Chapter 43, pg.548
Part 3[edit]
  • Top management as a function and as a structure was first developed by Georg Siemens (1839-1901) in Germany between 1870 and 1880, when he designed and built the Deutsche Bank and made it, within a very few years, into continental Europe's leading and most dynamic financial institution.
    • Chapter 49, pg.605
  • There is a point at which a transformation has to take place.
    • Chapter 53, pg.640
  • "Value added" is a meaningless concept for a retail business , for a bank, for a life insurance company, and for any other business which is not primarily engaged in manufacturing.
    • Chapter 54, pg.647
  • Absolute size by itself is no indicator of success and achievement, let alone of managerial competence. Being the right size is.
    • Chapter 55, pg.672
  • Engineers speak half–jokingly about Murphy's Law: " If anything can go wrong, it will." But complexity stands under a second law as well. Let me call it Drucker's law: "If one thing goes wrong, everything else will, and at the same time."
    • Chapter 56, pg. 681
  • There is a point of complexity beyond which a business is no longer manageable.
    • Chapter 56, pg.681
  • Financial "synergy" is a will-o'-the-wisp.It looks good on paper, but it fails to work out in practice.
    • Chapter 57, pg.707
  • Organizationally what is required - and evolving - is systems management.
    • Chapter 59, pg.761


  • Few companies that installed computers to reduce the employment of clerks have realized their expectations; most computer users have found that they now need more, and more expensive clerks, even though they call them "operators" or "programmers.
    • Drucker cited in: William White (1981) Library journal. Volume 106, Nr 1-12. p. 1048
  • All economic activity is by definition "high risk." And defending yesterday--that is, not innovating--is far more risky than making tomorrow.
    • Innovations and Entrepreneurship (1985)
  • Ideas are somewhat like babies--they are born small, immature, and shapeless. They are promise rather than fulfillment. In the innovative company executives do not say, "This is a damn-fool idea." Instead they ask, "What would be needed to make this embryonic, half-baked, foolish idea into something that makes sense, that is an opportunity for us?"
    • The Frontiers of Management (1986)


  • One of the great movements in my lifetime among educated people is the need to commit themselves to action. Most people are not satisfied with giving money; we also feel we need to work. That is why there is an enormous surge in the number of unpaid staff, volunteers. The needs are not going to go away. Business is not going to take up the slack, and government cannot.
  • Sören Kierkegaard has another answer: human existence is possible as existence not in despair, as existence not in tragedy; it is possible as existence in faith... Faith is the belief that in God the impossible is possible, that in Him time and eternity are one, that both life and death are meaningful.
    • The Ecological Vision: Reflections on the American Condition (1993)
  • For the social ecologist language is not "communication." It is not just "message." It is substance. It is the cement that holds humanity together. It creates community and communication. ...Social ecologists need not be "great" writers; but they have to be respectful writers, caring writers.
    • The Ecological Vision (1993)
  • Increasingly, politics is not about "who gets what, when, how" but about values, each of them considered to be absolute. Politics is about "the right to life"...It is about the environment. It is about gaining equality for groups alleged to be oppressed...None of these issues is economic. All are fundamentally moral.
    • Atlantic Monthly (1994)
  • That people even in well paid jobs choose ever earlier retirement is a severe indictment of our organizations -- not just business, but government service, the universities. These people don't find their jobs interesting.
    • The Shape of Things to Come: An Interview with Peter F. Drucker Leader to Leader, No. 1 (Summer 1996)
  • ...what's absolutely unforgivable is the financial benefit top management people get for laying off people. There is no excuse for it. No justification. This is morally and socially unforgivable, and we will pay a heavy price for it.
    • A cantankerous interview with Peter Drucker, Wired (August 1996)
  • Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won't survive. It's as large a change as when we first got the printed book. Do you realize that the cost of higher education has risen as fast as the cost of health care? And for the middle-class family, college education for their children is as much of a necessity as is medical care—without it the kids have no future. Such totally uncontrollable expenditures, without any visible improvement in either the content or the quality of education, means that the system is rapidly becoming untenable. Higher education is in deep crisis.
  • Universities won't survive. The future is outside the traditional campus, outside the traditional classroom. Distance learning is coming on fast.
  • ...human beings need community. If there are no communities available for constructive ends, there will be destructive, murderous communities... Only the social sector, that is, the nongovernmental, nonprofit organization, can create what we now need, communities for citizens... What the dawning 21st century needs above all is equally explosive growth of the nonprofit social sector in building communities in the newly dominant social environment, the city.
    • Civilizing the City, Leader to Leader, No. 7 (Winter 1998)
  • ...all earlier pluralist societies destroyed themselves because no one took care of the common good. They abounded in communities but could not sustain community, let alone create it.
    • The New Pluralism Leader to Leader, No. 14 (Fall 1999)

Managing for the Future: The 1990's and Beyond (1992)[edit]

  • Once a year ask the boss, "What do I or my people do that helps you to do your job?" and "What do I or my people do that hampers you?"
    • p. 137
  • The subordinate's job is not to reform or reeducate the boss, not to make him conform to what the business schools or the management book say bosses should be like. It is to enable a particular boss to perform as a unique individual.
    • p. 138
  • A manager's task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weakness irrelevant - and that applies fully as much to the manager's boss as it applies to the manager's subordinates
    • p. 139
  • Keep the boss aware. Bosses, after all, are held responsible by their own bosses for the performance of their subordinates. They must be able to say: "I know what Anne [or John] is trying to do."
    • p. 139
  • Never underrate the boss! The boss may look illiterate. He may look stupid. But there is no risk at all in overrating a boss. If you underrate him he will bitterly resent it or impute to you the deficiency in brains and knowledge you imputed to him.
    • p. 140
  • Do what you do best and outsource the rest is a business tagline first “coined and developed” in the 1990’s by Drucker. The slogan was primarily used to advocate outsourcing as a viable business strategy. Drucker began explaining the concept of outsourcing as early as 1989 in his Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article entitled “Sell the Mailroom.”

Post-Capitalist Society (1993)[edit]

  • The postwar [WWII] GI Bill of Rights - and the enthusiastic response to it on the part of America's veterans - signaled the shift to the knowledge society. Future historians may consider it the most important event of the twentieth century.
    We are clearly in the midst of this transformation; indeed, if history is any guide, it will not be completed until 2010 or 2020. But already it has changed the political, economic and moral landscape of the world.
    • p. 3
  • That knowledge has become the resource, rather than a resource, is what makes our society "post-capitalist.
    • p. 45

Managing in a Time of Great Change (1995)[edit]

  • This society in which knowledge workers dominate is in danger of a new "class conflict" between the large minority of knowledge workers and the majority of workers who will make their livings through traditional ways, either by manual work... or by service work. The productivity of knowledge work - still abysmally low - will predictably become the economic challenge of the knowledge society. On it will depend the ability of the knowledge society to give decent incomes, and with them dignity and status, to non knowledge people.
    • p. 205
  • I think the growth industry of the future in this country and the world will soon be the continuing education of adults. ...I think the educated person of the future is somebody who realizes the need to continue to learn. That is the new definition and it is going to change the world we live in and work in.
    • p. 295
  • I would hope that American managers - indeed, managers worldwide - continue to appreciate what I have been saying almost from day one: that management is so much more than exercising rank and privilege, that it is much more than "making deals." Management affects people and their lives.
    • p. 351


  • Knowing Yourself ...We also seldom know what gifts we are not endowed with. We will have to learn where we belong, what we have to learn to get the full benefit from our strengths, where our weaknesses lie, what our values are. We also have to know ourselves temperamentally: "Do I work well with people, or am I a loner? What am I committed to? And what is my contribution?"
    • Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself Leader to Leader, No. 16 (Spring 2000)
  • ...the information revolution. Almost everybody is sure ...that it is proceeding with unprecedented speed; and ...that its effects will be more radical than anything that has gone before. Wrong, and wrong again. Both in its speed and its impact, the information revolution uncannily resembles its two predecessors ...The first industrial revolution, triggered by James Watt's improved steam engine in the mid-1770s...did not produce many social and economic changes until the invention of the railroad in 1829 ...Similarly, the invention of the computer in the mid-1940s, was not until 40 years later, with the spread of the Internet in the 1990s, that the information revolution began to bring about big economic and social changes. ...the same emergence of the “super-rich” of their day, characterized both the first and the second industrial revolutions. ...These parallels are close and striking enough to make it almost certain that, as in the earlier industrial revolutions, the main effects of the information revolution on the next society still lie ahead.
  • This new knowledge economy will rely heavily on knowledge workers. ...the most striking growth will be in “knowledge technologists:” computer technicians, software designers, analysts in clinical labs, manufacturing technologists, paralegals. ...They are not, as a rule, much better paid than traditional skilled workers, but they see themselves as “professionals.” Just as unskilled manual workers in manufacturing were the dominant social and political force in the 20th century, knowledge technologists are likely to become the dominant social—-and perhaps also political—-force over the next decades.

About Peter Drucker[edit]

  • Although he reputedly hated the label of ‘guru’, Peter Drucker was, by any standards, the greatest management guru the world has yet seen. In 1996, the McKinsey Quarterly journal described him as the ‘the one guru to whom other gurus kowtow’ and Robert Heller described him as ‘the greatest man in the history of management’, praise indeed for a man who described himself as ‘just an old journalist’.
  • Posthumously Peter Drucker was inducted into the Outsourcing Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the field.

External links[edit]

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