Fractal 8 2005 Aaron M. Cohen    People doing wonders


 Stories and Reminiscences by Aaron M. Cohen
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 Working with Peter Drucker

The first time I met Peter F. Drucker, I tried to appear nonchalant, wanting
to rest my elbow on the table and hold my fist under my chin to keep my
jaw from dropping open. Every sentence he spoke shimmered with wisdom.

He was 87 years old then. He greeted me warmly, as I assumed
the position of Program Director for the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for NonProfit Management (no longer in existence).

After spending a half century transforming the way America's largest corporations were managed and predicting "the knowledge society," he had turned some of his attention to the nonprofit sector. In 1989, the Harvard Business Review published his seminal article, "What Business Can Learn
from Nonprofits."

    Eight Practices of Effective Executives:

  • They ask, "What needs to be done?"
  • They ask, "What is right for the enterprise??
  • They develop action plans
  • They take responsibility for decisions.
  • They take responsibility for communicating.
  • They focus on opportunities rather than problems.
  • They run productive meetings.
  • They think and say "we" rather than "I."

  Extrapolated from "What Makes an Effective
  Executive," by Peter F. Drucker. Harvard Business
  Review, June 2004.

He also began writing about what the nonprofit social and governmental public sectors could learn from the private sector.

In the mid-1990s, he leant his name to an initiative to establish a nonprofit foundation that would focus on developing resources for nonprofit leaders.

The "sector" lines quickly blurred. Peter's writings transcended application to any one sector.

The principles of management, business, innovation, executive effectiveness, productivity, and leadership he espoused were applicable across all sectors. The only real differences were the bottom lines: profit for the private sector, and service for the social and public sectors.

The across-the-board applicability of his thought was evident in an event I projected directed for him in 1997 a live-by-satellite half-day seminar,
"The NonProfit Leader of the Future." The event quickly morphed into "The Leader of the Future," the title of a compendium of essays the foundation
has published under the leadership of Frances Hesselbein. As nonprofit leaders across the country rushed to register, so did leaders and managers from the private sector. The end result
what was probably the largest ever gathering of executives and managers: 10,000 of them gathered at
250 sites across the U.S., and 40 sites in South America to listen to him speak those sentences that shimmered with wisdom.

Peter Drucker died in December 2005, at the age of 97. Almost to his last days, his output was prodigious. His influence will increase in the years ahead, as new generations of leaders and managers throughout the world will look to him for the knowledge, wisdom, strength, and resources that will help them manage change, innovate, and improve the performance of their organizations.

And more than ever, as ways to revive business ethics become the subject of doctoral research and theses, and nonprofit and governmental organizations work diligently to keep up with unfathomable dimensions of human need
Peter Drucker's voice will linger.

For those who have not read any of Peter's work, a good starting point is the recently published compendium, "Classic Drucker"
articles from the Harvard Business Review. A scan of some of the article titles demonstrate the staggering dimensions of Drucker's vision, prescience, and counsel:

  • Managing Oneself

  • The Theory of the Business

  • They're Not Employees, They're People

  • The Discipline of Innovation

  • Managing for Business Effectiveness

  • The Information Executives Truly Need

  • What Makes an Effective Executive

  • The New Society of Organizations

  • What Business Can Learn from Nonprofits

  • The Post-Capitalist Executive

Indeed, when I met him, I tried to appear nonchalant as I did when I was in the presence of the many other visionaries I have been fortunate enough to work with, or learn from.

In the months ahead, I will write more about Peter Drucker as well as about my experiences of Buckminster Fuller, Nelson Mandela, and the innovators I list on my visionaries page.

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