How to Consult Like Peter Drucker

Rick Wartzman
Rick Wartzman

In his latest column for Forbes online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman writes about Peter Drucker’s approach as a management consultant.

“Why was Drucker so in demand?” Wartzman asks. “What made him so good?”

“For starters,” Wartzman explains, Drucker “understood that his job wasn’t to serve up answers.” Rather, he asked lots of questions. “In many cases,” Wartzman says, “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? Or, as he urged the founders of the investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette to ask themselves in 1974, after they had enjoyed a heady period of growth: ‘What should our business be?’”

“Drucker also appreciated the fine balance that a consultant must strike,” Wartzman adds. “He enjoyed close relationships with many of the CEOs and other executives he advised—‘Whatever problem a client has is my problem,’ Drucker declared—but he never got close enough to become mistaken (or mistake himself) for an insider.”

In the end, Drucker asserted, “the management consultant brings to the practice of management what being professional requires: detachment.”