PETER Drucker who, more than anyone else in the last century, revolutionised the thinking on, and approaches to, management both conceptually and with reference to the real world, is dead.

The mark he left on every field of enterprise, academia, government, and social and economic institutions will remain indelible for as long as one can foresee.

He was a living legend who could count hundreds of thousands as his ardent disciples.

His devotion to his wife, Doris, throughout a marriage that lasted 68 years bespeaks of an exemplary personal life. His passing at the ripe old age of 95, leaves a void that is going to be hard to fill.

Drucker was the first to think of the human side of management and organisations and bring reluctant bosses round to regarding human beings working for them, not as automatons to be pushed around, but as resources who could add value to whatever goals organisations were after.

He strongly advocated their being given importance as partners and collaborators with a right to be taken into confidence and consulted on the objectives to be pursued. The roots of many of the innovative ideas which are commonplace today, such as laying down the vision and mission, practices of participatory management, inculcating a sense of belonging and identification, and building up of human capital can be traced to his teachings and writings.

Author of more than 30 books which enlarged and illumined the managerial landscape, he died before fulfilling his ambition of writing what he said would be his best book on "Managing ignorance".

Coming to think of it, he was not entirely facetious, and had actually been exercised over the contradictions of the age in which five revolutions are taking place simultaneously in knowledge, technology, communications, governance and social relations.

Drucker perhaps wanted to draw attention to the paradox of ignorance persisting in the midst of enlightenment and human beings, living in an age which by every token ought to be superior to all that is bygone, are still groping for the purpose and value of life.

This is because knowledge has become substitute for wisdom, materialism for humanity, and science for spirituality.

We can agree that "Managing ignorance" would indeed have been Drucker's best book, had he but been spared to write it.


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 14, 2005)
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