boston.com Business your connection to The Boston Globe
BOOK REVIEW

Management guru was always a step ahead

The Definitive Drucker

The Definitive Drucker
By Elizabeth Haas Edersheim
McGraw-Hill, $27.95

NEW YORK -- Peter Drucker didn't want a traditional biography, says the author who spent 16 months talking to the father of modern management theory to produce what he wanted instead: a book about his ideas.

Elizabeth Haas Edersheim was given close access to the legendary Drucker, widely credited with inventing the discipline of management, and penned his thoughts about the problems faced by executives today.

In "The Definitive Drucker," Edersheim, a former consultant at McKinsey & Co., attempts to capture Drucker's last thoughts and his practical solutions for today's changing world.

"Management in the 21st century faces fundamental changes in the size and scope of opportunities," he said.

Edersheim recounts the evening she received a call from Drucker, who died nearly two years ago at the age of 95, asking to see whether she would be interested in interviewing him and writing his biography.

The two talked while driving. They talked in his den until Doris, his wife of 70 years, would come to end their meetings. They talked sitting in the Drucker archives in Claremont University. And they talked over the phone, though never before noon Pacific time.

The result is a book that lays out paths for managers to navigate the silent revolution that took place on five fronts -- greater velocity of information, exploding geographic reach, changing demographics, increased customer control, and fluid definition of a company.

To succeed today, Drucker and Edersheim note the critical importance of looking at tomorrow while focusing on customers, innovating, building collaboration, investing in workers, and setting disciplines for decision-making.

Through writing and personal mentoring, Drucker influenced such business luminaries as Jack Welch, formerly of GE, Andy Grove of Intel, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Akio Morita, founder of Sony.

Drucker was passionate about the importance of good management and its ability to transform the world, writing 39 books that have been translated into more than 30 languages.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review in 1988, he said management "has created a global economy and set new rules for countries that would participate in that economy as equal. And it has itself been transformed."

Born in turn-of-the-century Vienna, Drucker was educated in Austria, England, and Germany. He fled to London in 1933 to escape Hitler's Germany before coming to the United States in 1939, where he taught management at various business schools.

Having witnessed Europe's economic failure in the 1930s, Drucker viewed vibrant businesses and management practices as critical needs for society, and went so far as to say that the allies' victory was achieved by management.

His first book, "The End of Economic Man," written in 1939, was praised by Winston Churchill and was required reading at one point for new British officers.

Drucker peppered his writing with disparate references from the liberal arts. He drew insights and examples from Mozart to theologian John Calvin to military strategist George Patton to highlight how management could succeed or fail.

People interested in this book are also interested in:

KNOW-HOW The 8 Skills That Separate People Who Perform from Those Who Don't , by Ram Charan (Crown Business , $27.50 )

WHAT GOT YOU HERE WON'T GET YOU THERE How Successful People Become Even More Successful , by Marshall Goldsmith (Hyperion , $23.95 )

TRUE NORTH Discover Your Authentic Leadership , by Bill George , Peter Sims , and David Gergen (Jossey-Bass , $27.95 )

THE ESSENTIAL DRUCKER The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management , by Peter F. Drucker (Collins , $17.95 )

THE EFFECTIVE EXECUTIVE The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done , by Peter F. Drucker (Collins , $15.95 )

WIKINOMICS How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything , by Don Tapscott (Portfolio Hardcover , $25.95 )

MIND SET! Reset Your Thinking and See the Future , by John Naisbitt (Collins , $24.95 )

MADE TO STICK Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die , by Chip Heath (Random House , $24.95 )

SOURCE: Amazon.com

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES