Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Peter F. Drucker, fully Peter Ferdinand Drucker

American Business Consultant, Professor of Philosophy and Politics, Social Ecologist and Author

"Our society has become an employee society."

"[the masses] ...must turn their hopes toward a miracle. In the depths of their despair reason cannot be believed, truth must be false, and lies must be truth. "Higher bread prices," "lower bread prices," "unchanged bread prices" have all failed. The only hope lies in a kind of bread price which is none of these, which nobody has ever seen before, and which belies the evidence of one's reason."

"Without institution there is no management. But without management there is no institution."

"We will have to learn to lead people rather then to contain them."

"The concept of profit maximization is, in fact, meaningless."

"The basic definition of the business and of its purpose and mission have to be translated into objectives. "

"As with every phenomenon of the objective universe, the first step toward understanding work is to analyze it."

"Decisions exist only in the present."

"It is better to pick the wrong priority than none at all."

"A success that has outlived its usefulness may, in the end, be more damaging than failure."

"A superior who works on his own development sets an almost irresistible example."

"Absolute size by itself is no indicator of success and achievement, let alone of managerial competence. Being the right size is."

"There is a point of complexity beyond which a business is no longer manageable."

"We do not need more laws. No country suffers from a shortage of laws. We need a new model."

"Growth as a goal, to repeat, is delusion. William James, the American philosopher, talked of the "bitch goddess success." A philosopher of business today might well talk of the "bitch goddess growth.""

"The world political system is till based on the concept of the national sovereign state. For the first time therefore, in three hundred years economy and sovereignty are becoming divorced from each other."

"There is every indication that the period ahead will be an innovative one, one of rapid change in technology, society, economy, and institutions."

"After 40 years of preaching, we have convinced everybody that cash flow is more important than profit. (Everybody except Wall Street, and Wall Street will never learn that lesson. There are no slower learners than securities analysts. I can testify to that; I was one. So they and the companies they promote still run into credit crunches, which kill about four of every 10 new businesses and cripple most of the rest.)"

"A growth policy needs to be able to distinguish between healthy growth, fat, and cancer ― all three are ‘growth,’ but surely all three are not equally desirable."

"Most organizations staff their problems and starve their opportunities. When people begin to start talking about problems, I say, 'No, wait a minute. Let's first look at the opportunities.'"

"Ignorance is the most important component for helping others to solve any problem in any industry. Ignorance is not such a bad thing if one knows how to use it, and all managers must learn how to do this. You must frequently approach problems with your ignorance; not what you think you know from past experience, because not infrequently, what you think you know is wrong."

"The leader of the past knew how to tell. The leader of the future will know how to ask."

"It is the customer who determines what a business is. It is the customer alone whose willingness to pay for a good or for a service converts economic resources into wealth, things into goods. What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance--especially not to the future of the business and to its success...What the customer thinks he is buying, what he considers value, is decisive--it determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper. And what the customer buys and considers value is never a product. It is always utility, that is, what a product or service does for him. And what is value for the customer is, as we shall see, anything but obvious."

"Throughout history, the great majority of people never had to ask the question, what should I contribute? They were told what to contribute, and their tasks were dictated either by the work itself by a master or a mistress. Knowledge workers have to learn to ask that question based on an understanding and melding of their strengths and passions. And the question must be revisited periodically: If I were not in this career today, would I have gotten into it? If not, what am I going to do about it?"

"The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous."

"Please accept the fact that the human race is split three ways: some people can take in information by looking at figures, some by looking at graphs, and a third group only by touching it, feeling it, or writing it. "

"The greatest source of mistakes in top management is to ask the same questions most people ask. They all assume that there are the same "right answers" for everyone. But one does not begin with answers. One begins by asking, "What are our questions?" The issues facing management don't change from year to year. The answers do. The biggest skill needed to address these issues is not really a skill -- it is a basic attitude, a willingness to start not with the question "What do I want to do?" but with the question "What needs to be done?" It was the willingness to ask this question that made the fairly mediocre Harry Truman a great president and the superbly gifted Richard Nixon a failure."

"A time of turbulence is one of great opportunity for those who can understand, accept, and exploit the new realities. One constant theme is, therefore, the need for the decision maker in the individual enterprise to face up to reality and resist the temptation of what "everybody knows," the temptations of the certainties of yesterday, which are about to become of deleterious superstitions of tomorrow. To manage in turbulent times, therefore, means to face up to the new realities. It means starting with the question: "What is the world really like?" rather than the assertions or assumptions that made sense only a few years ago."

"Today's corporation is structured around layers of management. Most of those layers are information relays, and like any relays, they are very poor. Every transfer of information cuts the message in half. There needs to be very few layers of management in the future and those who relay the information must be very smart. But knowledge, as you know, often becomes obsolete incredibly fast."

"I've lived a very long life, and I've seen a lot of stupidity. But very little of it beats the stupidity with which we have been downsizingÂ…Don't be surprised that morale is very low. The contempt for top management is dreadful. And the present generation of management is not going to regain the trust of their people. It is our greatest disadvantage in this country today."

"Very few of us, myself included, know the customer. One reason is that all of us believe, and must believe, that the product and the service we produce is important. But 99.9% of your customers couldn't care less about your product or service. You are not that important in their universe. And that's almost impossible to accept. The second reason is that you amass an enormous amount of information about the people who buy from you. Yet, for almost all companies, at least 70% of the people or organizations that should be your customers are not. So, if you want to understand the customer, those people who aren't your customers are the key."

"Effective organizations put people in jobs in which they can do the most good. They place people -- and allow people to place themselves -- according to their strengths."

"The first constant in the job of management is to make human strength effective and human weaknesses irrelevant. That's the purpose of any organization, the one thing an organization does that individuals can't do better. The second constant is that managers are accountable for results, period. They are not being paid to be philosophers; they are not even being paid for their knowledge. They are paid for results. Management is not a branch of philosophy but a practice… and results are not quite as easy to define in an organization. The balance between short term and long term, for instance, will remain a constant challenge"

"The 21st century will be the century of the social sector organization. The more economy, money, and information become global, the more community will matter. And only the social sector nonprofit organization performs in the community, exploits its opportunities, mobilizes its local resources, and solves its problems. The leadership, competence, and management of the social sector nonprofit organization will thus largely determine the values, the vision, the cohesion, and the performance of the 21st century society."

"I am not afraid of monopolies because they eventually collapse. Thucydides wrote years ago that hegemony kills itself. A power that has hegemony always becomes arrogant. Always becomes overweened. And always unites the rest of the world against it. A countervailing power always reacts. A hegemonous system is very self-destructive. It becomes defensive, arrogant, and a defender of yesterday. It destroys itself. Therefore no monopoly in history lives for very long."

"In the last 40 or 50 years, economics was dominant. In the next 20 or 30 years, social issues will be dominant."

"Education has become too important to be left to the educators."

"Educators can no longer assume that somebody else will do the educational job for them. With everybody else going to school till adulthood, school has become the place for learning whatever one needs in order to be both human and effective."

"Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time."