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on 10 January 2006
For a long time I had been intending to read something of Drucker. He is, after all, the grandfather of management science. But I kept putting it off, for I am a busy executive and need answers to my current management problems. The old man, I thought, would have less to tell me then, say, Roberts in "The Modern Firm" (which is an excellent book) or some of my internal reports.
"The Essential Drucker" it seemed, would be the right way to do my duty to history. Here I could quickly peruse a medley of the Drucker's outdated thoughts, and move on.
Oh how wrong I was.
Drucker's writing is as fresh and relevant today as when first written. His prescient insights foreshadow many recent works. Indeed, I found all of Tom Collins in the first few chapters; condensed and not said in quite the same way, of course, but the essential insights were the same. Drucker has reminded me that fundamental truths are timeless.
And there is something else I especially like; the tone. Drucker writes like a commander. He has confidence - not a blaring promotional edge - but a sense of solidity and authority that comes from saying things meaningful, clear, practical, logical; things from someone with his feet firmly on the ground.
Don't miss this book if you are not sure of where to start with Drucker. It may whet your appetite for more Drucker.
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on 20 January 2018
The Essential Drucker is a heavily edited version of the highlights from all of Drucker's works. Peter Drucker is described in the opening 'appreciation' as the inventor of management, and seems to have spent a career ranging from the 1920s to the 1990s studying management and providing advice. This book was created by editing together all his books into one central repository of all his best output - first by a Japanese editor into three volumes, then again by an American editor into a single volume.

The book is structured in three major sections - management as a concept, the individual as a manager, and society.

There is a wealth of good advice contained within these pages which I feel could be beneficially applied by managers today in the late 2010s. Drucker begins by attempting to define business and management, and the roles of management. He advises that the top focus of senior management should be to define 'what should our business be' and to set objectives in a number of areas of the business, none of which should mention profit, in order to give clear direction to everyone working in that business.

He talks about making it clear what roles have what responsibilities - the division of power between CEO and board - and wanders into talking about the role of business in society, a theme which runs through the book. Then from chapter six the advice becomes increasingly practical.

People need to understand the organisation structure, it needs to be clear who makes decisions, and that nobody should have two masters, which would create a conflict of interest. Managers need good information, particularly to understand the costs of what they are doing end-to-end through their entire supply chain, which means data from outside the direct business as well.

Drucker advises again about how important objectives are, and that management by 'drives' or 'crises' is bad. He proposes a methodology for creating objectives and ensuring they are understood between senior and junior managers, and advises self-control and the importance of ensuring managers have the data they need to self-manage.

He gives advice about recruitment and building a team, particularly about knowing when a role is wrong rather than the people being put in it. He talks about innovation and entrepreneurship, and suggests some approaches to ensuring innovation is continuous. And then he gives advice on how to set up a new venture, and to ensure you are focussing clearly on the market, rather than your own preconceptions of your product.

For the individual manager, he gives advice about how to be effective, which he views as the key element to management, and spends a number of chapters teaching how to approach this. The first key is to know oneself, focussing on one's strengths and forgetting about improving other areas, understanding how one works best and structuring your work to maximise that methodology, and ensuring one works somewhere with values compatible with one's own.

He spends a long time talking about time management, and gives some fairly brutal advice on how to best do this. First by understanding how you currently use your time, then by brutally attacking it. Grouping common tasks to avoid context switching, not rushing 1:1s, and not bothering to do anything that wouldn't be missed. He advises turning recurring crises into routine, argues that spending more than 10% of your time on staffing means you have too many staff, recommends no more than 25% of time in meetings (meetings mean you are trying to gain consensus, which implies responsibility is too diffuse and should be consolidated down), and speedier access to information.

The big recommendation he makes is to consolidate discretionary time - so pushing everything that takes you away from your desk together so you can have solid long blocks of time to focus.

He explains his approach to decision making and how to communicate. And then he advises about life, and what to do with the second half of your life, which is fascinating as it's something I'd been thinking about. He says to plan ahead earlier with what you want to do next, likely outside of your main career.

The final society section seems limited in it's advice and feels more like rumination about history and the future.

However, along with all the good advice, Drucker really falls down in his presentation in a number of ways.

The book opens with an 'appreciation' - it's a gushing hero-worshiping opening which does nothing to make me like the author, and coupled with the introduction begins the thread of capitalism, small government-loving, sexist, racist, America-Centric, closed-minded and old-fashioned writing which runs through the entire book.

It feel so unnecessary to make a book about advising managers so political, taking every opportunity to denounce unions, Marxism, Liberal Arts, the left-wing, Ralph Nader, jazz, the working class, non-white people, the welfare state and socialism.

There are some very strange choices of language as well, invoking the Christian god in some places that seemed incredibly out of place, and strangely idiomatic for a book that claims to have been translated into Japanese and back.

Every chapter seems to drip with sexism - referring to managers as 'he, and increasingly she', mentioning housewives, and talking about meetings which are 'three men and a secretary'. There are a number of praising case studies around the Girl Scouts of America, but against the backdrop of sexism it feels like these have been chosen out of surprise that an organisation run by women on a voluntary basis can actually be a positive example of good business practice. Some of the sexism doesn't even seem like it's a product of the time the book was written, but just dropped in with no justification at all.

The peak has to be in chapter 22, when Drucker actually compares feminists to Hitler. It's not a good chapter and attempts to set up the 'intellectual' as the nemesis of the manager. It's written from a very manager-centric viewpoint despite claims it wants balance, and contains a massive explicit assumption that the ways of Western-society are best and will dominate forever.

So overall, the book contains good advice, but bad language and a bad world-view. I can't in good conscience recommend reading it - it was hard work, took up too much of my time, and in places made me angry.

Given another edit to bring it up to date, remove many of the unnecessary word/phrase choices, and to add more recent case studies, I could see it being a useful read.

In the meantime I suggest finding a summary of the good advice and just following that.
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on 8 August 2015
Turned out I didn't need to read it all to understand some of the key principles, I wonder if other people find that with business books?
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VINE VOICEon 7 May 2004
Before going further, let me note that this book is mislabeled. The excerpts in this book are from only ten of Professor Drucker's more than 30 management books. Although there is some reference to nonprofit management (where he spent half of his time), this volume does not encapsulate all of his ideas in that sphere. Many of his early ideas about society are also missing.
As great as his ideas about management are, his observations about how to think are even more valuable. The book contains no material from his autobiography, Adventures of a Bystander. You cannot hope to fully appreciate this material until you read that book.
What the book does contain is a fairly easy to follow series of 26 excerpts from the ten books, organized into three sections: Management, Individual, and Society. These books date back to 1954, so you get an overview of part of his work over the last 47 years. This overview will mainly be valuable to managers who have read very little Drucker, since there is essentially no new material in the book. The excerpts are also not connected by any transitions, so there is no additional perspective available from the book's organization.
Here are the sources of the chapters:
The New Realities, Chapters 1 and 26;
Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Chapters 2, 3, 5, and 18;
Managing for the Future, Chapters 4 and 19;
Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Chapters 6, 15, 21;
Managing in a Time of Great Change, Chapters 7 and 23;
Practice of Management, Chapter 8;
Frontiers of Management, Chapter 9;
Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Chapters 10-12, 20, and 24;
The Effective Executive, Chapters 13, 14, 16, and 17; and
Post-Capitalist Society, Chapters 22 and 25.
If you are not familiar with Professor Drucker, he is generally considered to be the first person to think systematically about what management is and needs to become. He was also the first to identify that we were moving into a knowledge-based society where the focus of work and the ways that work is organized would have to be totally transformed. His definition of what a business must do is the most often quoted one around: "The purpose of a business is to create a customer." Innovation and marketing are the prime tasks. The book is especially deep in references to his seminal thinking on how to innovate and to operate entrepreneurial businesses. He was also the first twentieth century thinker to see the connection between management of for profit and nonprofit organizations, and that both types of organizations are needed in growing numbers for a sound society. This book is also deeply presents his thinking about the social responsibility of business.
I am still impressed by how substantial his imprint is on all management books that I read. Whether or not Professor Drucker is cited, credited, or admired in these books, almost all of them are simply restatements or elaborations on his fundamental concepts. I hope this edition of his work will help extend his influence further into the future with new generations of executives and managers.
After you finish reading these landmark ideas, I suggest that you think about one element of the book from the individual section. What values do you want to bring to your work? Are you succeeding? If yes, congratulations! How can you accomplish more? If not, what can you change to make those values come to life?
Use your work as a canvas upon which to paint a better world, as Professor Drucker has!
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on 9 November 2010
A terrific compendium of Peter Drucker's 'greatest hits'. You'll want to read other books after digesting this, and you'll have a clear idea of which other books to read. That's important because Drucker was so prolific and covered many topics that are relevant to management. After reading this you'll have a solid foundation in Druckerism, so to say. If he is new to you, then prepare to enjoy a fascinating ride in the head-spinner.
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on 20 March 2016
A R Robertson, chairman of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, had the bright idea of burying the Westinghouse Time Capsule 50 feet below Flushing Meadows Park during the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The capsule is not due to be opened until the year 6939.

Robertson proved to be less bright when it came to understanding what made corporations tick. In 1938, he used to invite a young American correspondent who worked for a group of British newspapers to join him for lunch in the Westinghouse executive dining room. One day over lunch, the correspondent told Robertson that he wanted to analyse corporate life from the inside, and sought permission to make a study of Westinghouse.

Robertson’s reaction was to order the security personnel to bar the correspondent from ever entering the building again. “Only a Bolshevik would want to know how a company functions,” he fumed.

A short while later, the “Bolshevik” was invited by General Motors to study corporate life from the inside. And it was while at GM that the “Bolshevik,” Peter Drucker, laid the groundwork for his pioneering work in modern management science. Drucker’s quest to understand what makes a company tick went on to spawn an entire industry – the biz book industry.

Drucker’s conclusions were so comprehensive that many business writers and business leaders still claim that no new idea has emerged in business books that did not originate with Peter Drucker. "Think of any management idea that is fashionable today and the chances are that Peter Drucker was writing about it before you were born." (Charles Handy). "It is frustratingly difficult to cite a significant modern management concept that was not first articulated, if not invented, by Drucker." (James O'Toole). "The biggest problem with evaluating Mr. Drucker's influence is that so many of his ideas have passed into conventional wisdom." (The Economist).

It is impossible to escape Drucker’s long shadow. Intel co-founder Andrew S. Grove claims that his actions were influenced on a daily basis by Drucker’s simple statements. John Peters credits Drucker as the undisputed creator and inventor of modern management. There is a line in Drucker’s The Effective Executive: "Effectiveness, in other words, is a habit." It does not take too much detective work to see how this statement influenced the title of Stephen Covey’s runaway best-seller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

In 2005, shortly before his death, Drucker compiled a selection of his management writings: The Essential Drucker: In One Volume the Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management. The book opens with a vintage Drucker insight on the definition of business. The conventional definition: “an organisation that makes a profit,” says Drucker, is not just wrong but irrelevant. Profit-making is not the purpose of management decisions, but a test of whether they work.

Manure salesman Arthur H. Motley once said: “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” Drucker put it more delicately several decades earlier: “There is only one valid definition of business purpose – namely to create a customer.” The result of a business is a satisfied customer.

On decision making, Drucker held that decisions are rarely a choice between right and wrong. At best it is a choice between ‘probably right’ and ‘probably wrong’ - but usually it is simply a matter of picking among several courses of actions, none of them any better than the other. A cardinal rule in decision-making is that you don’t make a decision until there is disagreement. If everyone agrees, you can’t tell what the decision is about. Maybe there is no decision to be made at all. So get disagreement. To figure out an alternative, don’t immediately ask ‘who is right’ and ‘who’s wrong’. Never forget that decision-making is all about taking risks. You cannot eliminate risks. It is futile. The idea is not to try to eliminate risks, but to take right risks.

Drucker introduced dozens of core management concepts into modern business parlance:
• Management by objectives
• Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things
• Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
• Learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change
• The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different
• Substance is more important than style
• Institutionalised practices are more important than charismatic, cult leaders
• Management is not a science or an art – it is a profession
• Employees should be treated as assets, not as liabilities to be eliminated.

GE’s Jack Welch once described Drucker as the greatest management thinker of the last century. Shortly after Welch’s appointment to the top spot at GE,Drucker asked him, "If you weren't already in a business, would you enter it today? And if the answer is no, what are you going to do about it?" We can see how this influenced Welch. He introduced the policy of selling or closing any business unit under the GE umbrella if it failed to become either #1 or #2 in its market.

Despite Drucker’s singular contribution to management thinking, traditional business schools tend to shun him because he based his insights more on observation than rigorously tested research. Tom Peters admits that he managed to earn a PhD in business without ever being required to read a single book by Drucker.
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on 29 May 2016
If you can't afford the time/money to read the original books get this compilation. Drucker is truly a master of common sense Management Science - of the sort that finds difficulty in going 'out-of-date' . Essential reading for all managers irrespective of their specialist discipline.
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on 21 December 2009
When I bought this book I was lost between the top 10 Management books written by Drucker as I was looking for a general preview of his work, his basic principles and theory on management. This book is what it's title says: the Essential guide to Drucker's theory, with just enough analysis and theory to back up his basic management science cornerstones, as well as a substantial preview of the 21st century challenges that have been addressed by Drucker as early as the 80's... Great read for someone who wishes to get an in-depth knowledge of the Sage of Management.
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on 5 May 2014
I found this easy to read and accessible introduction into the insights of great thinker. Drucker's ideas about the moral purpose of companies and his insights into what management should be must read for all company directors. Enjoyable, uplifting and inspiring. A must read for anyone with a serious interesting in corporations, management, business etc
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on 22 June 2014
A great compilation of his material take from across his publishing career - really worth while introduction to his work that will guide you to more of his material relevant to your requirement.
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