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How Does Your Company Fare Against the Peter Drucker Checklist?

If an organization were to embody the core principles laid out by management icon Peter Drucker, what would it look like? And how does yours compare?
COLLABORATORS Leigh Buchanan, Rick Wartzman
Management advice from Peter Drucker
photo by Jeff McNeill

Faithful Build readers already know our reverence for seminal management thinker Peter Drucker (see “Peter Drucker, Patron Saint?” from Build catalog No. 1). But we’re far from the only ones who think you can’t revisit his touchstones often enough or who devise fresh ways to get insight from doing so.

Leigh Buchanan, Inc.’s longtime reviewer of management books, recently helped devise another way for leaders to test themselves and their organizations on how well they adhere to Drucker’s most enduring principles. Buchanan notes that her top-ranked management tome of all time is Drucker’s The Effective Executive (1967!), and that “when people talk about reinventing management, what they really mean is reinvesting in Drucker.”

She recounts a conversation with Rick Wartzman, executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, in which the two of them speculated about what a Drucker-driven business would look like today — and whether there were any companies that fit the bill.

Wartzman named a handful of close-enough exemplars, including Herman Miller, Proctor & Gamble, and FedEx. What’s even better, he created a checklist of characteristics that, in his view, sum up how a Drucker-driven organization would behave. Here it is for your own delectation — and so you can go right ahead and audit your operation accordingly. As Buchanan says when teeing it up, “Whether you regard it as validation or aspiration, [we] hope you find it useful.”

You have a Drucker-like company if you:

• Have a strong mission and a cogent answer to the deceptively difficult question, “What business are we in?”

• Always remember that “there is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer” while accepting that “quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for.”

• Push responsibility and accountability as far down into the organization as possible and follow this basic communications strategy: Listen down, talk up.

• Embrace the fact that every organization develops people (“it either helps them grow or it stunts them”) and so you do everything you can to help them grow.

• See innovation — that is, “change that creates a new dimension of performance” — as the responsibility of everyone in the enterprise and not just the R&D staff.

• Regularly abandon things (products, policies, practices) that are no longer effective or are consuming an inordinate amount of resources when weighed against tomorrow’s opportunities.

• Measure what can be measured and monitor what can’t, recognizing that good intentions are no substitute for performance and results.

• Keep an eye on the long term — and not just the short term — while being mindful that, while “securities analysts believe that companies make money, companies make shoes.”

• Live by a core set of values, animated by the belief that an organization needs values “as a human body needs vitamins and minerals.”

• Demonstrate social responsibility not simply by having a CSR department or donating to charity but by understanding that an organization is responsible for “whomever and whatever it touches.”



When you fall into all-Drucker-all-the-time mode, check out the Drucker Institute’s website — a trove of valuable and sometimes quirky material. See, for instance, his typewritten script for a lecture on Kierkegaard, or his 1992 consulting report for Coca-Cola.

For more from Rick Wartzman, read his 2011 book, What Would Drucker Do Now? Solutions to Today’s Toughest Challenges from the Father of Modern Management.


  1. Drucker was a very well respected guru of management. Another was Stephen Covey senior who told us something Drucker never mentioned, that the possible performance gain from properly managing people is 500%. That is a huge number, almost unbelievable. But with the right actions, it is achievable. There are certain actions which will consistently create a poor performing workforce while at the other end of the spectrum there are actions which will consistently create a very high performing workforce. These latter actions will raise the performance of your poorest and middle level performers to being very close to that of your very best performers and there are very good reasons why this is true. I proved all this in my 30+ years of managing people. If interested, take a look at

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