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Practice And Principles

by Peter F. Drucker

Pub Date: June 5th, 1985
ISBN: 0060913606
Publisher: Harper & Row

At a guess, Drucker's latest contribution to management literature will command appreciably less than half the attention being lavished on A Passion for Excellence (422). His substantive, systematic commentary is nonetheless superior to the trendier entry on both a comparative and stand-alone basis. Among other accomplishments, Drucker puts the evolution of executive arts in an accessible socioeconomic perspective. The worldwide panic of 1873, he observes, ended a century of laissez-faire and led to the modern welfare state, which 100 years later "had run its course," In the turbulent interim, he reports, the US work force has expanded by roughly 40 million. He attributes the net gain in jobs--achieved despite oil shocks, double-digit inflation, a few serious recessions, and a sharp contraction in smokestack industries' payrolls--to the innovative activities of entrepreneurs. In Drucker's book, true entrepreneurs (who can be found in the public and as private sectors) are a less than venturesome lot; although demonstrably intrepid, they seek to minimize risk in their efforts to adapt to and exploit change. Entrepreneurship, he argues persuasively, has more to do with behavior than personality. Its most productive manifestation is purposeful innovation--broadly defined as enchancement of "the wealth-producing potential of already existing resources." While Drucker does not altogether dismiss bioengineering or solid-state electronics, he points out that employment opportunities have been created mainly by low-tech firms that did not exist 20 years ago--restaurant chains, financial-services organizations, health-care concerns, et al. The next catalogues a wealth of commercial/institutional applications of the management principles Drucker is bent on advancing. He notes, for example, that notwithstanding the availability of conclusive demographic data, only a few universities were prepared for the boom-and-bust enrollment cycle that followed the decade-long surge in the domestic birth rate after WW II. Along similar lines, the author faults seemingly successful corporate pioneers that fail to protect market positions with regular price cuts. The Drucker agenda also features tax-reform and related public-policy proposals designed to ensure innovative entrepreneurs an operating environment conducive to continued achievement. In brief, then, a provocative prescriptive guide that takes the measure of the responsibilities of both management and society in a fast-changing marketplace.