The Practical Drucker: A book review by Bob Morris

Practical DruckerThe Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker
William A. Cohen
AMACOM (2014)

A brilliant explanation of how to apply the most valuable lessons to be learned from Peter Drucker (1909 –2005)

The title of this book seems somewhat redundant because Peter Drucker is, in my opinion, the most practical business thinker since Benjamin Franklin. He often referred to himself as a “student” because he had an insatiable curiosity to understand what works in the business world, what, doesn’t…and especially, why. With Cohen’s assistance, almost any executive can apply lessons learned from Drucker’s books and articles.

Cohen is uniquely qualified to share his thoughts and feelings about Drucker and his work because he was one of Drucker’s students for several years, became personal friends with him and his wife Doris, and was the first to earn a PhD in management from the Peter Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. Drucker once said of Cohen, “My colleagues on the faculty and I learned at least as much as we could teach him.”

What we have in this volume, as Cohen explains, is material he uncovered while mining “Drucker’s vast body of work to explain forty of his most important concepts and truths: keys for solving real-world problems and fundamentals for today’s effective management and keen leadership. However, I have carried his ideas a step further: I explain not only what needs to be done to implement his concepts but also how to go about [begin italics] doing [end italics] this implementation. If there are mistakes here, they are mine. The genius is pure Drucker.” Cohen presents Drucker’s insights and counsel in a sequence of 40 chapters that are organized within four Parts: People, Management, Marketing and Innovation, and Organization.

These are among the passages that caught my eye:

o Confucian Ethics (Page 11)
o Drucker’s four paths to an engaged worker (16)
o His favorite leadership book: the Kyropaidaia by Xenophon (20-21)
o His career advice (76-80)
o Drucker’s views on office politics (86-89)
o His advice on “managing” the future (101-102)
o On the importance of timing (118-124)
o On problem solving (131-136)
o The Five Great Marketing Sins (145-157)
o Ten Principles of Strategy Development (155-158)
o Four Approaches to Entrepreneurial Marketing (159-164)
o What Customers Really Want (179-180)
o What You Should Do When Strange Things Happen (187)
o Why the primary purpose of business is [begin italics] not [end italics] to make a profit (202-203)
o The value of ignorance to the problem solving process (222-225)

It is importance to stress again that Cohen serves as a guide during his reader’s explorations of Peter Drucker’s thoughts about virtually every aspect of the modern business world, with special attention to 40 of his most important concepts. However, whereas Drucker’s primary emphasis is often on what and why, Cohen’s is on how. To a much great extent than Drucker ever did, at least in print, Cohen shares hundreds of anecdotes that focus on real people in real situations who struggle to solve problems and answer questions, who attempt to apply (for better or worse) lessons learned from Peter Drucker. When concluding this book, he reveals what he considers Drucker’s most valuable lesson: “He taught us to think and ask questions.” Most of his own answers can be found in this admirable book.

Those who share my high regard for The Practical Drucker book are urged to check out these among Bill Cohen’s previously published works: A Class with Drucker: The Lost Lessons of the World’s Greatest Management Teacher (Mar 4, 2009), The Art of the Strategist: 10 Essential Principles for Leading Your Company to Victory (Jun 2004), and Secrets of Special Ops Leadership: Dare the Impossible — Achieve the Extraordinary (Sep 9, 2005).

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