Peter Drucker Centennial

Thursday, 19th November is the 100th anniversary of the birth in Vienna of Peter Drucker (died 11th November 2005). Generally regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern management principles and practices, Drucker’s thinking and influence is marked by the widespread publication of his quotes and sayings. Many such quotes can be found, unfortunately mostly unreferenced, via a quick Google search (1).

Some of these thoughts are pertinent to anyone with an interest in teaching and learning today, including:

On developing professional practice – “Teaching is the only major occupation of man for which we have not yet developed tools that make an average person capable of competence and performance. In teaching we rely on the “naturals,” the ones who somehow know how to teach.”.
On life-long learning – “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”.
On reflection, review and evaluation – “Checking the results of a decision against its expectations shows executives what their strengths are, where they need to improve, and where they lack knowledge or information.”

And also – “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

Some of the key enabling technologies available today did not exist when he published much of his thinking. However, the advent of modern e-learning and learning technologies arguably has made Drucker’s work more, not less, relevant and the potential of his thinking remains valid. While it is sometimes fashionable to overlook management as a social science, the legacy and value of Drucker’s work lies in its utility across disciplinary and contextual boundaries and in its wider lessons for organisational and professional life today. Interestingly, in the age of e-book readers, only one of Drucker’s many publications – “Managing the Non-Profit Organization” (2005) – is available as an audio book, no doubt including some lessons for educational institutions.

A celebration of the life and work of Drucker is the subject of two-day conference being organised by the Peter Drucker Society of Austria. It is ironic perhaps that his reputation was established by his work for General Motors in the late 1930s and 1940s. Yet today, as the 100th anniversary of his birth is celebrated, the company that provided the impetus for much of his life’s work is in deep trouble, partly on account of external forces, some admittedly beyond its control, but for which management ultimately must bear the responsibility that goes with that role.

Roger Dence
17th November 2009

(1) For example,, accessed 17th November 2009.

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