November 15, 2005

News & Opinion: Adrian Zackheim on Peter Drucker

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 9:26 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Noel Tichy once commented to me that there was very little you could say about management that Drucker hadn't said before and better.
Given his stature, Drucker was immensely courteous and generous about the work of other writers. And if he couldn't endorse a book, he could be extraordinary forthcoming with corrective commentary. I often wondered how he found the time. A cursory reading of Drucker indicates a profoundly humanistic intellect, and an outlook that was hardly bounded by the usual concerns of a manager or corporate bureaucrat. Drucker was an intellectual and a journalist first; a collector of Japanese art and much else; AS WELL AS a management authority extraordinaire.
When I arrived at Harper in 1994, Drucker had been a house author for over four decades. Cass Canfield, Jr. was editing him very ably, but Drucker requested a meeting with me as his new Publisher. Among other things, Drucker was fascinated by digital technology. The CD-ROM craze was just hitting. And he thought that as the new guy, I might have a grip on what might be in it for him. Cass and I wondered what materials he might have lying around that might be turned into a digital product. Eventually, Cass and I found ourselves on a plane to Los Angeles for a day-long visit with Doris and Peter. We spoke about converting various Drucker speeches into a CD-ROM, but the craze subsided before we were able to marshal our forces.
The Druckers were exceptionally hospitable, riveting conversationalists with a vast range of interests. They were fully engaged in everything that was going on in the world, though they were both in their mid 80s at the time.
Unsurprisingly, Drucker had a very clear vision of his publishing catalog and about the effect on his backlist of publishing various collections and omnibus editions. He gave a fascinating account of his early career as a journalist in Germany -- he was one of the youngest editors ever of a major daily there -- and of the circumstances that brought him to the attention of General Motors.
Aside from showing him a few cover designs, I can't say that I had much of a role in a Drucker publication. But I remember the man very fondly and, of course, his influence on our field is absolutely primary.
Written By:
Adrian Zackheim
Portfolio (an imprint of the Penguin Group)