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5.0 out of 5 stars One student's fond memories of "The Master of Modern Management", December 17, 2007
This review is from: A Class with Drucker: The Lost Lessons of the World's Greatest Management Teacher (Hardcover)
Peter Drucker was William Cohen's professor "in probably the first executive PhD program in management in academic history" from 1975 until 1979 and Cohen was the first graduate of this program at Claremont Graduate School. His classes with Drucker met once a week, beginning at 4:30 PM and resumed after a dinner break, continuing until at least 10 PM but sometimes later. These were lecture courses without use of notes but Drucker, a master of the Socratic method of teaching, encouraged Q&A exchanges with students. ("In answering a question he might go off in an unexpected direction which seemingly had nothing to do with the question asked. Before you knew it, he was giving a lecture within a lecture.") He attracted so many students that his classes met in the largest room available. He used the same textbook for all his classes (Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices) and never used a teaching assistant to grade for him. During the dinner break, instructors and students from various classes gathered at an open bar and then dinner in the Faculty Club. Cohen occasionally found himself seated with a group that included Drucker.

What we have in this volume is a wealth of Cohen's memories of those years as a student at Claremont Graduate School, his reflections on what he learned from Peter Drucker, and discussions of how those lessons were then applied in his personal life and especially in his career. "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." Cohen succeeds brilliantly in achieving these and other objectives.

If there were a business counterpart to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Peter Drucker would be among those selected for such an honor. (Who else? That's an interesting question but the whole idea would no doubt have appalled Drucker.) Of special interest to me is what I learned about his teaching style. Cohen obviously accumulated an abundance of notes, old papers, and other sources of information from or about his several years of their association with "The Father of Modern Management." As Cohen repeatedly suggests, Drucker had a unique talent for "cutting right to the heart of the [given] issue." Among the several lessons that Cohen learned and shares, these are the ones that caught my eye:

"The first task of any business management is to decide what business it was in."

"What everyone `knows' is frequently wrong."

"Outstanding performance is inconsistent with fear of failure."

"Selling and marketing are neither synonymous nor complementary. One could consider them adversarial in some cases. There is no doubt that if marketing were done perfectly, selling, in the actual sense of the word, would be unnecessary."

"The first systematic book on leadership [i.e. The Persian Expedition or Anabasis] was written by Xenophon more than 2,000 years ago, and it is still the best."

To them I presume to add an observation Drucker made in an article published in the Harvard Business Review years before, in 1963: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."

Cohen notes that Drucker once asked two questions of Jack Welch that then guided and informed his leadership of GE after he succeeded Reggie Jones as its new CEO. "If you weren't already in the business, would you enter it today?" followed by a second, more difficult question, "What are you going to do about it?" Today, other CEOs should carefully consider the importance of these questions, answer them, and then proceed accordingly. "Drucker taught what to do. He was very specific about this. However, he did not teach how to do it." One of this book's substantial value-added benefits is that, throughout his narrative, Cohen offers his own observations and suggestions as to how to achieve the various business objectives that Drucker recommends, accompanied by dozens of relevant examples to illustrate key points. Those who share my high regard for Peter Drucker's life and work will be as appreciative as I am of what William Cohen shares in this volume.

Among the 40 books written by Peter Drucker (November 19, 1909-November 11, 2005), my personal favorites include The Practice of Management (1954), The Effective Executive (1966), Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices (1973), Adventures of a Bystander (1998), Peter Drucker on the Profession of Management (1998), The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management (2001), The Effective Executive (Revised Edition, 2002), Classic Drucker: From the Pages of Harvard Business Review (2006), and People and Performance: The Best of Peter Drucker on Management (2007).
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