Peter Drucker wrote so much for so long that there are multiple books summarizing what he wrote on particular topics, such as “Drucker on Asia” and “Peter Drucker on Consulting”. Peter Drucker’s greatest contributions to society were the concept of the knowledge worker and systemization of management.
The Knowledge Worker
Peter Drucker realized perhaps before anyone else that we were shifting from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy, and the knowledge worker is at the center of it. This is perhaps be exemplified by the book “The Post Capitalist Society”, imagining a world where we pay a premium for expertise and organizations value the knowledge workers and experts most because that is generally who generates the revenue. Or you pay a premium when hiring consultants and freelancers who provide services as required.
Systems of Management
Peter Drucker wasn’t the only person who discussed data driven management, but he popularized the concept and wrote extensively about the systemization of management. How do you determine what your core functionality is? Once you know that, the business has to evolve to support it. Know your objectives, then translate that into goals and tasks for employees. That is the very definition of Management by Objectives (MBO).
IBM shifting from computing hardware to software and services is a case and point of a business evolving to support its “core” though it involved total reinvention. Kodak focusing on physical cameras until it filed bankruptcy in 2012 is what happens when you don’t. I expect to see more such re-inventions of companies as technology evolves, as well as shifting from hardware providers to service providers. That is, un-ironically, businesses shifting from traditional manufacturing to focus instead on the knowledge workers’ providing expertise as their core function … and now we’re back to the first point.
Whether you’re working in human resources, business planning or any other management role, you’ve probably read at least some of Peter Drucker’s books. They're surprisingly prescient and increasingly relevant in a world where the knowledge worker is the center of the organization.
What do you consider Peter Drucker’s biggest contributions to industrial and systems engineering? What books of his do you consider the most relevant today?