Author: Peter F. Drucker

Publisher: HarperBusiness, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0061252662, 608 pages


To say that Peter F. Drucker wrote the book on management is absolutely accurate, but only if you make that plural. During his long lifetime, “the founding father of the study of management” published 34 major works, including 15 on the art and science of enterprise management. Drucker had a front-row seat for the managerial exploits of the 20th century’s leading corporations, and this update to his 1973 classic Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices includes his kaleidoscopic take on many of them. Revised by Joseph A. Maciariello to incorporate Drucker’s later writings, this version lucidly covers every aspect of management, plus a remarkably diverse array of topics such as nonprofits, service organizations, corporate governance and “knowledge workers” (a term Drucker used to describe white-collar, skilled professionals in the labor force).If you want to learn about management, you cannot do better than Drucker’s acknowledged masterpiece. This is the bedrock business book.

Modern enterprises need managers

The rise of management as an organizational discipline arguably is the most important business development of the 20th century. Management practices came into demand when labor transitioned from manual work to “knowledge” work. In the early 1900s, 90 percent of those employed anywhere in the world worked at blue-collar or domestic service jobs. As economies and businesses grew, however, the need for skilled professionals grew as well. “Knowledge workers” carry their capabilities with them; they “own their means of production.” And as companies sought to compete on a basis other than cost, the quality and efficiency of their managers become the “competitive advantage” that could set one firm apart from the others.

One telling case history illustrates the critical role that managers play in a big organization. Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in 1905. Fifteen years later, Ford was the pre-eminent U.S. automobile manufacturer. Yet by 1927, it had fallen to a distant third in U.S. car manufacturing, a position it clung to for the next two decades. Why did it plunge so far so fast? Henry Ford did not believe in management; his corporate concept posited an all-powerful “owner-entrepreneur” assisted by “helpers.” In fact, he immediately would sack any employee who acted like a manager or who made an independent decision. Henry issued orders and expected compliance. His traditional command-and-control approach turned his firm into a failing enterprise.

While Henry Ford ruled the auto industry, General Motors – a loose conglomeration of small car companies – ran a weak second to his winning firm. GM had no dealer organization and no one outstanding automobile model. But Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., its president, believed strongly in management. On taking command of GM at the start of the 1920s, Sloan quickly formed a team of empowered managers. Within five years, GM toppled Ford to become the leading U.S. car maker. In 1946, Henry’s grandson, Henry Ford II – understanding the competitive advantages management practices conferred – revamped Ford and led it back to the top to compete with GM.

Management’s history

The discipline of management came into its own with the development of universal banks in Europe and the transcontinental railroad in North America during the late 1800s. These huge enterprises changed the business dynamic from that of a centrally located, single owner-entrepreneur to a multiple-shareholder, internationally dispersed organization…

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