Books on management are published by the hundreds each year, but for our money you can skip everything else and simply re-read Peter F. Drucker, who was the Shakespeare of the genre and who died Friday at his California home at age 95.
For 30 years, the immigrant from Austria graced these pages as a contributor, usually under the heading, "Drucker on Management." That was a typical piece of modesty, because the more accurate description of his work would have been Drucker on Everything. He was a student of human behavior in all its ways and means, and through his many books and articles he sought to explain how managers could get the most from themselves, their colleagues and their institutions.
The business world would surely be a better place if every manager were required to read his 1966 classic, "The Effective Executive." It includes pearls on time management, especially the necessity of carving out chunks of time for thinking and decisions, on how to manage a meeting, and on the importance of focusing not on what any job requires but on what every individual can contribute.
His achievements include anticipating the rise of the modern corporation, and then dissecting its strengths and weaknesses; predicting the challenge that Japan would pose to American business; describing the rise and importance of "the knowledge worker"; and defending profit-making as central to the business enterprise at a time, in the middle of the last century, when that was not a widely held proposition.
His final piece for us, "The American CEO," was published last December 30, and was billed as a three-part series. He was too ill to complete the other parts, though it is a tribute to his stature and wisdom that readers kept sending us notes asking when the other articles would be published. We excerpt from some of his Journal articles nearby. R.I.P.