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Inside Drucker's Brain Hardcover – October 16, 2008
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*Starred Review* Editor and publisher Krames parlays six hours spent with the late father of management, Peter Drucker, into a book worthy of reading and rereading. In December 2003, Krames flew to Southern California in anticipation of two full days of conversation with the 94-year-old guru—and dozens of questions then scaled back to a little more than a half day and six queries. Nonetheless, the result is masterful. Fifteen chapters distill the essence of Vienna-born Drucker, snippets of his life, and a 360-degree appreciation of his prescience. One example is called “Execution First and Always,” which anticipates by many decades the publication of a full range of theories and tactics on the importance of implementation in business, from Larry Bossidy to Ram Charan. Although the importance of people and employees has always been acknowledged but not necessarily trumpeted in U.S. corporations, Drucker, via Krames, delivers a hard-nosed warning about the mandate to treat workers as partners, keep them in the loop, and to remember that, above all, people decisions are the most important decisions. Drucker’s life comes alive in the insertions of information, including his escape from Nazi Germany and the extent of his worldwide audience. A must-read for anyone in business, beginner or wizened pro. --Barbara Jacobs
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Krames introduces this very interesting book under review as follows:
“Early November 2003: The last person I expected to hear form that Monday morning was Peter Drucker. … I had been seriously pondering a Drucker book for four years. Many of Welch’s best ideas had originated with Drucker. …
D-day: Monday, December 22, 2003. …I realized … that I knew little about Peter Drucker the man. I knew a great deal about his writings, his business philosophy, his management tenets, having read – more than once – the vast majority of his thirty-five books on management, and management and society. … Even his beefy memoir, Adventures of a Bystander, revealed little about who he really was (see the Epilogue for some highlights from that book). …I suspected that he had his legacy in mind when he agreed to my request for an interview. … He later told me that I was sitting in the same chair Jack Welch had sat in weeks before he became CEO of GE in 1981. … There was little small talk; … He had his own agenda, and was anxious to get started. … Because of Drucker’s age and health “the second half-day session we had planned was out of the question.”
The amazon look inside function provides you with the Contents.
In the Chapters 1 to 9 we learn details about Peter Drucker’s family background, his fascinating career and performances as a writer, consultant, professor and teacher between 1939 (The End of Economic Man) and 2002, when he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Drucker’s Six Most important Books (Pg. 73), famous people admiring and praising Peter Drucker, The Jeffersonian Ideal, History Through Drucker’s Eyes and Auditing Strength to review the qualities and/or deficits of leadership.
In Chapter 9 Elizabeth Haas Edersheim is referenced as Drucker biographer.
She wrote in her book “The Definitive Drucker” published in 2007: “If you weren’t in this business today, would you invest the resources to enter it? I spoke with Jack Welch while I was writing this book. He said that by far the most important lesson he learned from Drucker was to ask the above question.” (Page 88).
Maybe this was one reason for Peter Drucker to invite Jeffrey A. Krames for the interview on December 22, 2003.
Chapter 10 Drucker on Welch is dedicated to Drucker’s own agenda.
“From that story he moved to a more serious discussion of naturals and quickly pivoted to Jack Welch. Although I did not realize it at the time, what he was about to tell me was more than he had ever said publicly about Jack Welch and the GE he inherited when he took over. … I wondered what was behind Drucker’s detailed monologue on Welch. He knew I had edited and/or written more than half a dozen books on Welch, so perhaps he thought it best to speak in the ‘language’ of the leader I knew best. In hindsight, however, I believe it had more to do with his (Drucker’s) legacy. He had spent five decades working behind the scenes helping to make GE one of the most admired and emulated companies in the world, but he had received little of the credit. …”
In the Chapters 11 to 15 we find details about Life-and-death Decisions, The Strategic Drucker, the Fourth Information Revolution, the Leader’s Most Important Job and a Short course on Innovation.
In all chapters Drucker’s books are referenced and appropriately focused on.
In Chapter 1 Krames starts with Peter Drucker’s book “The End of Economic Man” published in 1939 – Drucker was 30 years old - which was extremely important for his future career.
Chapter 15 is followed by Kramer’s “Epilogue: From the Monster to the Lamb” which is a chapter in Peter Drucker’s fascinating “Adventures of a Bystander”. Krames: “a book that is commonly referred to as his autobiography but is more like a memoir. As Drucker explains it, Bystander is a book he wrote for himself. The subtitle of the British version summed up Drucker’s goal for the book: Other Lives and My Times. That is an accurate depiction of the book, which paints vivid portraits of the people who had the greatest impact on him. … He was too humble to write a book that was chiefly about himself. He also maintained that he was not interesting enough to warrant a memoir. ‘Bystanders have no history of their own,’ he wrote. ‘They are on stage but are not part of the action. They are not even audience….’ He told Business Week’s John Byrne six months before he died that he did his best work in the 1950s and characterized his work since then as ‘marginal.’ …’I’m totally uninteresting,’ he told that same Business Week reporter.”
With reference to specific details in the “Adventures of a Bystander” Krames describes people very important for Peter Drucker culminating in the last part of the Epilogue sub-headlined again “The Monster and the Lamb” (pages 245-257): Drucker’s dramatic experiences with the Nazis between 1927 and 1933, when Hitler came to power and Drucker left Germany for UK.
Drucker wrote about “Reinhold Hensch, one of America’s most wanted Nazi war criminals, committed suicide when captured by American troops … known as ‘The Monster’ even to his own men.” … and ‘Paul Schaeffer …Two years after Schaeffer took the job, after both he and the Berliner Tagblatt had been completely exploited by the Nazis, ‘both were liquidated and disappeared without a trace,’ reported Drucker.”
Krames (Page 251) quotes Drucker who wrote in his “Bystander”: I have often wondered which of these two did, in the end, more harm – the Monster of the Lamb; and which is worse, Hensch’s sin of the lust for power or Schaeffer’s hubris and sin of pride? But maybe the greatest sin is neither of these two ancient ones; the greatest sin may be the new twentieth-century sin of indifference, the sin of the distinguished biochemist who neither kills nor lies but refuses to bear witness when, in the words of the old gospel hymn, “They crucify my Lord.” (in Bystander, Page 169).
Krames then returns to his start in chapter 1:
“Drucker’s first two books (not counting the two pamphlets banned by the Nazis) touched on these themes. The End of Economic Man, Drucker’s first book, was published in the spring of 1939. When published, it received an incredible amount of attention, especially for a first-time writer. It accurately predicted the coming Holocaust. Churchill lavishly praised the book …Although the book wasn’t published until just before World War II started in 1939, Drucker had begun to write it far earlier, just a few weeks after Hitler came to power in 1933. The way this book was rejected by the academic community foreshadowed Drucker’s entire career. In the 1960s and 1970s the book was ignored by the scholarly community, explained Drucker. That was because it did not fit either of the two prevailing views of Nazism: that it was either a ‘German phenomenon’” or ‘the last gasp of dying capitalism.’”
“Instead, the book ‘treated Nazism and totalitarianism altogether – as a European disease, with Nazi Germany the most extreme, most pathological manifestation and with Stalinism not being much better or much different.’ That was ‘not politically correct,’ commented Drucker wryly.
The second reason Drucker felt that the book was ignored was because it ‘treats a major social phenomenon as a social phenomenon. This is still largely considered heresy,’ he wrote in 1994.
The second book that Drucker would write, the one that directly preceded his years studying GM and the publication of his first business book (Concept of the Corporation, 1946), was The Future of Industrial Man (1942). …Drucker told me that had it not been for the two earlier books, Concept of the Corporation would never have been published. The same publishing house published Concept, but only because the first two had done so well. Had Concept not been published, the Peter Drucker we know – the inventor of management – may have chosen another career path. That’s an outcome I don’t even want to think about.”
I want to finish this review with two observations.
The first observation is obvious for all Drucker connoisseurs: Drucker was never a Bystander,
he had a history of his own, he was on the stage and had many very important parts of action.
We find many proofs in this book.
The second observation came to my mind yesterday when I reflected on this book, “The End of Economic Man” and “Adventures of a Bystander”.
In all his books Peter Drucker focused the spotlights on people around him while he remained in the shadow. However, if you turn the spotlights by 180 degrees from the people in his “Bystander”, his “The End of Economic Man” and this book directing the spotlights from these people to Peter Drucker himself, then, all of a sudden, you understand his history, and you see the man whom we appreciate.