Peter Drucker is dead at 95. Known as the "consultants’ consultant", he was a management author and speaker who, despite the lack of easy frameworks, models or quickie theories was one of the most read and influential thinkers on leadership and organizations. He was prolific: His first book was published in 1939 and first management book in 1942. He gained fame with The Practice of Mangement in 1954, and his autobiography Adventures of a bystander is a gem. For some reason, my favorite is his 1994 Harvard Business Review article "The Theory of the Business", where the main message is that "Businesses don’t fail because of sloppiness, lethargy or mammoth bureaucracies, but because they fail to understand that their assumptions about their environment–their theory of the business–no longer applies."
I met him only once, at a 1995 internal seminar for CSC Index employees in Cambridge, MA. He told the following story (as I remember it):
At the Mt. Washington hotel in Bretton Woods there is a rule that no guest can go to his or her room without being escorted by a staff person. This is for historical reasons. When the hotel was first built, it had six rooms in a row. Then six more rooms where built on top of them., and six more in the back. Then the bottom rooms where merged, two and two, because they wanted to have ensuite bathrooms. Then the hotel got further expanded, in bits and pieces.
The rooms are numbered chronologically, and the system is so confusing and the hotel so large that it takes a staff person to navigate.
Most companies are organized in the same fashion.
Drucker was a writer – he didn’t do oversimplified analysis or quick silver bullet solutions, but shared this thoughts and his wisdom, arrived at by reflective observation and precise language. A life well spent.
Update: The Economist, as usual, gets it right with their conscise and insightful obituary.