In the Foreword, Jim Collins recalls a day spent with Peter Drucker in December, 1994. It is important to keep in mind that when he met with Drucker, Collins was only 36 years of age and "with no significant reputation." Nonetheless, Drucker treated him with kindness as well as respect. "His generosity of spirit [then and now] explains much of Drucker's immense influence." Collins reflected on Drucker's admonition to replace the quest for success with the quest for contribution. "The critical question is not 'How can I achieve?' but 'What can I contribute?'" Before parting, in fact, Drucker told Collins, "I have learned much from our conversation today" and he obviously meant it. Although widely referred to as a "guru," Drucker has always viewed himself as a student. His intellectual curiosity is apparently insatiable. Also his desire to continue to be of service, to add to his contributions as the leading founder of the field of management, as the most influential management thinker in the second half of the twentieth century, and as the founding father of the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management.
What we have here is anthology of 366 brief excerpts from Drucker's 35 books and countless articles. In the Preface, Drucker also explains that "the most important part of this book is the blank spaces at the bottom of its pages. They are what the readers will contribute, their actions, decisions and the results of these decisions. [Drucker then adds the following assertion, italicized to indicate the importance he attaches to it.] For this is an action book." He then acknowledges a debt of gratitude to his longtime friend and colleague, professor Joseph A. Maciariello, who assisted with the selection and organization of the material. For example, the items assembled in the January section range from "Integrity in Leadership" to "A Functioning Society." Each of the 31 selections begins with an appropriate quotation, followed by an excerpt and then an ACTION POINT. The same format is employed for each of the other 335 selections throughout the book.
Here is a more enlightening example, provided for April 21. Quotation: "If we didn't spend four hours on placing a man and placing him right, we'd spend four hundred hours on cleaning up after our mistake." (Alfred Sloan). The excerpt which follows is taken from Drucker's autobiography, Adventures of a Bystander, and creates a context for Sloan's observation. In this instance, Drucker was astonished by the fact that the senior executives at General Motors spent what he considered "a disproportionate amount of time" discussing the work and assignment of a position "way down the line." As for the ACTION POINT, "Make decisions on people -- selection, placement, and evaluation -- your top priority." The reader is also provided with an extensively annotated Bibliography and a comprehensive list of "Readings by Topic." Re the latter, for example, the subject "New Realities" is discussed in excerpts assigned to February 1,2,5,7; March 25-27; May 1-9, 12-19, and 28; and August 28. A total of 72 "Topics" are indexed for the reader.
Years ago, after a substantial tuition increase at Harvard, then president Derek Bok responded to irate parents with the suggestion that "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." I think it is highly significant that Peter F. Drucker still refers to himself as a student, expressing gratitude each day for what he learns from others. Those who read this book will be grateful for what they learn from Peter Drucker but such gratitude means nothing if readers do not understand that [in italics] "...this is an action book."
For whom will this book be most valuable? I presume to suggest two categories: those who are committed to "getting the right things done," and, those who think they already know how...but, in fact, probably don't.