Peter Drucker established the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University in 1999 to collect and preserve his work, make it available to scholars, students, and writers, and make his work and philosophy effective in the practice of management.

He was the first to see that the developing world was turning into a “society of organizations,” and the strength of our communities hinges on all of our institutions—private, public, and nonprofit—being effective and responsible.  To him, the most significant ingredient to the success of these organizations was the presence of an effective executive, who had the skills and ability to “get the right things done”, no matter what the size of the organization.

Drucker had seen firsthand what happens when society stops functioning, having witnessed the rise of the Nazis in the aftermath of the Great War and Depression. This was the central theme of the first of the 39 major books – The End of Economic Man – that he would publish throughout his extraordinarily long and productive career.  “These catastrophes broke through the everyday routine which makes men accept existing forms, institutions and tenets as unalterable laws…They suddenly exposed the vacuum behind the façade of society.”

Drucker was determined never to let things break down like that again and set out to help leaders build effective and responsible institutions, learning much from rising corporate leaders, which helped inform the writing of some of his most popular books – The Effective Executive, The Concept of the Corporation, The Practice of Management.

This body of work shaped his image as “The Creator and Inventor of Modern Management.” A label proclaimed for him by Tom Peters, who studied Peter’s work and went on to become one of the most sought-after minds on management philosophy and practice.

Even as he became best known, especially in The United States, as a writer on management, it was not his foremost concern. The majority of his books deal with community, society, and polity. He strongly believed that man in his social and political existence must have a functioning society where an individual has status in the community, function in society, and trust in their major institutions.

The work of society is carried out through the “society of organizations”: (1) Public sector organizations in which the work of federal, state, and local government is carried out. (2) Private sector organizations, established to meet the economic needs and wants of citizens (3) Social sector (sometimes referred to as nonprofit) organizations to care for those health and welfare needs of citizens that are not met fully either by public or private sector organizations.  For a society to function well, its organizations should be single-purpose institutions, while working together to leverage their resources to drive positive change.

If the institutions of our pluralist society of institutions do not perform with responsible autonomy, we will not have individualism and a society in which there is a chance for people to fulfill themselves. We will instead impose on ourselves complete regimentation in which no one will be allowed autonomy. Tyranny is the only alternative to strong, performing autonomous institutions. Freedom is not so much a right as a duty. Real freedom is not freedom from something; that would be license. It is freedom to choose between doing or not doing something, to act one way or another, to hold one belief or the opposite.

Today the Institute and its mission – Strengthening Organizations to Strengthen Society – has helped it become a destination for those committed to a lifetime of learning. Its world-class executive education opportunities and leadership and management training are renowned for helping people manage with courage.

About Peter

Shortly before he died in 2005, Peter Drucker was celebrated by BusinessWeek magazine as “the man who invented management.” Naturally, when most people hear that description, they think of corporate management. And Drucker did, in fact, advise a host of giant companies (along with nonprofits and government agencies). But he came to his life’s work not because he was interested in business per se. What drove him was trying to create what he termed “a functioning society.”

Drucker had, after all, seen firsthand what happens when society stops functioning. This was the central theme of the first of the 39 major books that he would publish over the course of his extraordinarily long and productive career. The End of Economic Man traced the rise of the Nazis in the aftermath of the Great War and Depression.

“These catastrophes broke through the everyday routine which makes men accept existing forms, institutions and tenets as unalterable laws,” Drucker wrote. “They suddenly exposed the vacuum behind the façade of society.” Looking for a miracle, he added, the masses turned toward the “abracadabra of fascism.”

Drucker was determined never to let things break down like that again. And the only way to do that was to build effective and responsible institutions, including those that by the 1940s were emerging to be the most powerful in the world: big American corporations. Management, practiced well, was Drucker’s bulwark against evil.

Drucker as Consultant

In many cases, they were deceptively simple: Who is your customer? What have you stopped doing lately (so as to free up resources for the new and innovative)? What business are you in? For those who worked hard enough to puzzle out the answers, the experience could be truly profound. “If you weren’t already in this business,” Drucker asked Jack Welch when Welch became the CEO of General Electric, “would you enter it today? And if the answer is no, what are you going to do about it?” This led Welch to his pivotal strategy of fixing, selling or closing every business in which GE was not No. 1 or No. 2 in the market. Above all, Drucker pushed his clients to stop simply making plans and to start taking action. “Drucker purified my mind,” said Donald Keough, the former president of Coca-Cola. “He would tell me after each session, ‘Don’t tell me you had a wonderful meeting with me. Tell me what you are going to do on Monday that’s different.’”

Drucker’s imprint was broad, affecting companies across the world.

For instance, “Toyota operates exactly the way Drucker-san said a company ought to operate,” Atsuo Ueda, an expert in the automaker’s vaunted production system, has noted. But Drucker’s imprint was also deep, as Jim Collins observed when he and Jerry Porras were researching their book Built to Last: “The more we dug into the formative stages and inflection points of companies like General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, Merck and Motorola, the more we saw Drucker’s intellectual fingerprints.” The difference: Unlike so many consultants, Drucker wrote and thought “with such exquisite clarity,” said Intel co-founder Andy Grove. That alone made him “a standout among a bunch of muddled fad mongers.”

Drucker as Teacher

He indulged a lot—lecturing on economics at Sarah Lawrence College beginning in 1939, teaching philosophy and politics at Bennington College from 1942 to 1949, serving as a management professor at New York University from 1949 to 1971, and holding the Marie Rankin Clarke Professorship of Social Science and Management at Claremont Graduate University from 1971 to 2002. Drucker gave his last lecture at CGU in spring 2005, not long before his death, at the age of 95.

Drucker as Writer

Sometimes, if he wanted to be provocative, he’d say that he was a “social ecologist,” observing our man-made environment the way a natural ecologist examines the biological world. Most of the time, though, he’d keep it simple: “I’m a writer.”

Interviewer: If you describe your occupation, would it be ‘writer’?

Drucker: I always say I write.

Interviewer: What, then, has inspired your books more than anything?

Drucker: The same thing that inspires tuberculosis. This is a serious, degenerative, compulsive disorder and addiction.

Interviewer: An addiction to writing?

Drucker: To writing, yes.

Through some 10,000 book pages and countless articles, Drucker displayed incredible powers of observation—to “look out the window and see what’s visible but not yet seen,” as he put it. In fact, he discerned many of the major trends of the 20th century before almost anyone else did: the Hitler-Stalin pact, Japan’s impending rise to economic power, the shift from manufacturing to knowledge work, the increasing importance of the social sector, the fall of the Soviet Union. Above all, he wrote about the need for all of our institutions to flourish in order to have a functioning society. In this way, “probably no writer of the second half of the 20th century has had more influence for the good,” Jack Beatty, Drucker’s biographer, has asserted. Drucker wrote 39 books in all. They were mostly about management, economy, polity and society, but there were two novels among them.

Drucker and the Social Sector

As the story goes, the concept was so counterintuitive that many readers thought the magazine had made a huge typo; surely, it had gotten things backwards. Anyone who was familiar with Drucker, however, knew that he believed in the power of the best nonprofits not only to be effective and highly impactful for the recipients of their services, but also to provide a much-needed sense of fulfillment for their volunteers. “Citizenship in and through the social sector is not a panacea for the ills of … society,” Drucker wrote, but it “restores the civic responsibility that is the mark of community.” Drucker advised the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the American Heart Association, the Girl Scouts of America and many others. In 1991, he created the Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation, which remains among the Drucker Institute’s core programs.

Drucker as Guru

That was surely overstating things. But there is no doubt that they admired him. Tom Peters, the co-author of In Search of Excellence, called Drucker “the creator and inventor of modern management.” Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter once remarked that “Peter Drucker’s eyeglasses must contain crystal balls because he anticipated so many trends.” Michael Hammer, whose Reengineering the Corporation was the best-selling business book of the 1990s, commented: “I have had the privilege of sharing a podium with Peter Drucker; on such occasions, I felt as though I was playing back-up horn for the archangel Gabriel.” As for Drucker, he actually hated being called a “guru.” People used the word, he said, only because “charlatan” was too hard to spell.