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The Definitive Drucker: Challenges For Tomorrow's Executives -- Final Advice From the Father of Modern Management [Hardcover]

Elizabeth Edersheim
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Book Description

Jan. 4 2007

“We need a new theory of management. The assumptions built into business today are not accurate.”-Peter Drucker

For sixteen months before his death, Elizabeth Haas Edersheim was given unprecedented access to Peter Drucker, widely regarded as the father of modern management. At Drucker's request, Edersheim, a respected management thinker in her own right, spoke with him about the development of modern business throughout his life-and how it continues to grow and change at an ever-increasing rate.

The Definitive Drucker captures his visionary management concepts, applies them to the key business risks and opportunities of the coming decades, and imparts Drucker's views on current business practices, economic changes, and trends-many of which he first predicted decades ago. It also sheds light onto issues such as why so many leaders fail, the fragility of our economic systems, and the new role of the CEO. Drucker's insights are divided into five main themes that the modern organization needs to, as Drucker would say, “create tomorrow” by

  • Connecting with customers
  • Innovating without abandoning what works
  • Developing lasting partnerships
  • Creating and retaining knowledge workers
  • Establishing disciplined decision making

Drucker's penetrating questions, posed to those seeking his advice, helped business, corporate, and political leaders throughout the 20th century to see their work in a new perspective, and create phenomenal innovation. Edersheim's extensive interviews with some of these luminaries, including Warren Bennis, Ram Charan, Bill Gates, George Gallup, Jr. and A.G. Lafley offer compelling commentary on Drucker's vast influence.

Delivering keen analysis and revealing insights into business, The Definitive Drucker is a celebration of this extraordinary man and his life's work, as well as a unique opportunity to learn from Drucker's final business lessons how to strategize, compete, and triumph in any market.


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From Publishers Weekly

In a concise introduction to the philosophy of the 20th century's most distinguished business theoretician, Edersheim explores the insights that have shaped management thinking from the 1940s through the 1990s. Drucker himself chose Edersheim to interview him, based on her previous book (McKinsey's Marvin Bower, about the man who built the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company), but he had in mind a biography of his ideas, not a traditional bio. Edersheim blends brief summaries of Drucker's thinking on various management topics (innovation, customers, leadership, decision making) with examples of how his ideas have been practiced at specific organizations and comments from contemporary business leaders. She doesn't try to trace the development of Drucker's ideas over time; instead, she focuses on the challenges managers face today and tries to cull useful advice for tackling them from Drucker's writings. Those seeking a broad intellectual and social context for Drucker's work might prefer Jack Beatty's 1998 The World According to Peter Drucker, while aspiring managers should turn instead to one of Drucker's own books, whose intellectual rigor and lively prose make them immensely readable to this day. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Austrian-born Peter Drucker (1909-2005) was regarded as the founding father of modern business management. He wrote a total of 39 books on management, economics, and politics, and counseled the heads of GM, Ford, and GE as well as numerous political leaders including Margaret Thatcher and Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. This may be considered his final collaborative work, as it contains information Edersheim obtained through interviews during the last six months of his life. Rather than producing an exhaustive biography, Edersheim chose to focus on the man's thoughts and ideas--reflections on his methods and views on the challenges of today's business management. Some of these are classic Drucker, such as viewing your business from the customer's prospective, the importance of collaboration and of taking care of the people in your organization. Other thoughts are very forward thinking, as Drucker muses on the influence of technology and the Internet. With the addition of numerous quotations, both by and about Drucker, Edersheim has captured the essence of the man and his works. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I had the good fortune to spend one to three days a year with Peter Drucker from 1992-1999: He consulted with Carol Coles and me in developing research and consulting services for lowering the cost of capital, launching the 400 Year Project to accelerate global progress by 20 times during 2015 through 2035, and in writing about what the next generations of leadership best practices would be like. You can get a glimpse of that connection in Jack Beatty's book, The World According to Peter Drucker. I also will be writing more about Peter's ideas on and contributions to these subjects in the forthcoming book, Adventures of an Optimist.

I once asked Peter how he would guard his intellectual legacy after his death. He confidently replied that he had a very good plan and that all would be well. Having seen that this book was published after his death under the title, The Definitive Drucker, I'm not so sure he was right about protecting his intellectual legacy.

For the record, this book is not the definitive book on Peter Drucker. Why?

1. The book is almost totally devoted to his ideas about for-profit management as pursued by very large companies.

2. There is virtually no mention of his ideas about society in general.

3. His work on how to be effective executive is incompletely shared.

4. Dr. Haas Edersheim deliberately ignores the roots of Drucker's concepts as described in Adventures of a Bystander, which I believe is essential context for appreciating his observations.

5. The manner by which his nonprofit consulting experiences helped him formulate his for-profit ideas is ignored.

6. Almost all of my favorite anecdotes based on what Peter said to me about the companies described in this book are left out.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
6 of 0 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Each of us is a CEO." Feb. 28 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ignore the inappropriate title. The "definitive Drucker" passed away on November 11, 2005, and his best work is to be found within his 40 books and hundreds of articles. (The Essential Drucker, for example, whose contents were personally selected by Peter Drucker.) There are two reasons for my rating of this book: Elizabeth Haas Edersheim was able to meet or talk with Drucker frequently during the last 16-18 months of his life and thus we indeed have in this volume what its subtitle claims to be his "final advice"; also, she conducted dozens of interviews (including several of CEOs such as Procter & Gamble's A.G. Lafley who wrote the Foreword) who shared their perspectives on Drucker and his impact on them. Others interviewed include Jim Collins, Warren Bennis, and C.K. Prahalad.

To her credit, Edersheim creates a context for Drucker's insights and presents them, then gets out of the way. Although these insights are carefully organized within seven chapters, I appreciate the fact that she permits a rambling, informal, but lively narrative that seems most appropriate to Drucker's own style of communication. Throughout the book, she captures and sustains a conversational tone for his remarks. Although Drucker is widely renowned - and properly so - as a visionary thinker, insights of greatest interest to me are those which suggest his pragmatism. For example, here is one of my personal favorites that first appears in an article (in 1963) in the Harvard Business Review: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."

True, Drucker served as an adviser to most of the world's largest corporations and, upon request, personally counseled their CEOs, other C-level executives, and board members. However, in my opinion, the impact and value of his knowledge leadership extends far beyond the corporate world as, in his later years, he devoted so much of his attention to helping improve the effectiveness of non-profits, and, the personal as well as professional development of those preparing for or only recently embarked upon a business career. This was perhaps best expressed when he observed "Each of us is a CEO." Whatever their size or nature may be, effective organizations are human communities comprised of personally accountable individuals who work well together. Their success will reflect Peter Drucker's enduring influence in months and years to come.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Drucker as For-Profit Management Expert and Consultant for Large Companies with Newer Examples May 28 2007
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had the good fortune to spend one to three days a year with Peter Drucker from 1992-1999: He consulted with Carol Coles and me in developing research and consulting services for lowering the cost of capital, launching the 400 Year Project to accelerate global progress by 20 times during 2015 through 2035, and in writing about what the next generations of leadership best practices would be like. You can get a glimpse of that connection in Jack Beatty's book, The World According to Peter Drucker. I also will be writing more about Peter's ideas on and contributions to these subjects in the forthcoming book, Adventures of an Optimist.

I once asked Peter how he would guard his intellectual legacy after his death. He confidently replied that he had a very good plan and that all would be well. Having seen that this book was published after his death under the title, The Definitive Drucker, I'm not so sure he was right about protecting his intellectual legacy.

For the record, this book is not the definitive book on Peter Drucker. Why?

1. The book is almost totally devoted to his ideas about for-profit management as pursued by very large companies.

2. There is virtually no mention of his ideas about society in general.

3. His work on how to be effective executive is incompletely shared.

4. Dr. Haas Edersheim deliberately ignores the roots of Drucker's concepts as described in Adventures of a Bystander, which I believe is essential context for appreciating his observations.

5. The manner by which his nonprofit consulting experiences helped him formulate his for-profit ideas is ignored.

6. Almost all of my favorite anecdotes based on what Peter said to me about the companies described in this book are left out. Here's an example of the insights those anecdotes provide: Can anyone appreciate Drucker's tendency to revise his opinions to claim that he was the first to notice something without knowing that he insisted that I take most of my Dell examples out of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise because he was concerned that Dell wouldn't continue to prosper after 1999?

7. The full scope of his thoughts about for-profit management is ignored. For instance, his many questions and ideas about capital markets are mostly missing . . . except as they arise in the DLJ example of how he encouraged the founders to go public in the 1970s.

There is one excellent element about this book that makes it well worth reading: If you renamed this book, The Definitive Drucker as Consultant, you wouldn't be far off the mark. His consulting practice was mostly invisible to those who weren't his clients, but his approach is one that most consultants could learn much from. I was very impressed by the way that Dr. Haas Edersheim's interviews and writings captured the essence of Peter Drucker in a one-on-one situation. Although some of the earlier books about Peter addressed this topic, none did so as thoroughly and as well as this book.

Most business leaders today have read relatively little of Peter Drucker's writings. But most have read some of the so-called original management theories that are little more than a rephrasing of Peter's original designs while not acknowledging Peter's work at all. Where Peter always tried to pick the best example for a point he had to make, most business authors seem to be only able to write about recent examples that they have experienced. And many business book readers prefer it that way. Dr. Haas Edersheim's book fits that mold very well. She develops themes from some of Peter's long-time, large-company clients (like GM and GE), adds some of her own clients, and finds a few other examples that seem to fit what Peter has to say. For those who want to see some of Peter's work dressed up with more recent examples, this book is probably the best resource.

Even though English was a learned language for Peter, he wrote English like a talented, native-speaking novelist. Where Peter is quoted in the book, the beautiful language shines. Dr. Haas Edersheim, by comparison, writes like an academic/consultant and the experience is not always pleasant. She likes to force ideas into her metaphors (something Peter would never do), display lots of grids (something Peter couldn't imagine anyone wanting to do), and ramble on endlessly about things that could be stated quite simply (something Peter would use his ruthless self-editing to avoid).

Interestingly, Peter always told me that the impact of his books was quite minor compared to the effect of his essays in The Wall Street Journal and other mass media. Why? Lots of people read well-constructed essays in the mass media and few read more than a few pages in any business book. He also doubted if very much in the Harvard Business Review was really read and understood. I was shocked to see how little this book relied on his essays. Hopefully, someone will realize that those essays are the essential kernel of his influence and write about them in the future.

Dr. Haas Edersheim obviously is drawn to strategic questions and Peter, of course, founded the field of strategy for organizations. If that's your interest, you'll find this book to be quite solid.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Accessible Drucker Feb. 5 2007
By J. Barry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Edersheim brings Drucker's timeless observations and ideas into the present with additional insights about today's business world and many examples of how some of today's most innovative companies are applying Drucker's wisdom to succeed in today's dynamic world. The Definitive Drucker makes Peter Drucker's insights and advice to some of the world's most successful business leaders accessible and embraceable. A must read for anyone who has read Drucker in the past and wants a refreshing new look at his ideas and for anyone looking for a modern day primer on Drucker's insights
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitively Valuable Jan. 25 2007
By Wharton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is must reading for anyone who leads or hopes to lead an organization. It distills the essence of Drucker's work into seven readable and enlightening chapters. Edersheim captures the clarity of Drucker's insights and frames his approach in a manner that will be beneficial no matter how the business world changes. This is not a book to be read and discarded. It is a guide to be kept accessible and revisited regularly.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MBO for 2007: Read this Book March 6 2007
By Abidga Bridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In this wonderful book, Elizabeth Edersheim not only channels the master, she jams with him.

Peter Drucker invented much of modern business' language and, therefore, many of its core concepts. Where would business be, after all, if it weren't for knowledge workers meeting MBOs? Which of us would be customer driven and results oriented? Without Drucker, would we have struggled as mightily to tradeoff effectiveness and efficiency? Would we be systematically seeking new opportunities for innovation in realms of discontinuous change (presaging most strategy gurus by at least 15 years)?

If you are a fan of Drucker -- one of the clearest thinkers and writers of the 20th Century -- this exploration of many of his most important ideas is a wonderful complement to his own writing. It's certainly not a conventional biography but more like a musical discography that explores, riffs on, and and just plain enjoys his most interesting compositions.
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