In an earlier column titled “The Drucker Curse,” I argued that Peter Drucker, the much acclaimed 20th-century management thinker, could be found guilty of drawing an “iron curtain” across the corporation, a barrier designed to segregate a fledgling but maturing management narrative from a robust and authoritative finance function.
I wrote that his influential writings routinely ignored finance, and while I have read many Drucker texts and found this to be largely accurate, I should mention here that this observation was first made to me by the late Jeremy Hope, author of various management texts, including Reinventing the CFO (Harvard Business School Press,2006).
Five years ago, when I was interviewing Jeremy for a magazine article, he told me that Drucker and other management thinkers of the past century did not fully appreciate the impact that financial controls have had on organizations because they rarely if ever were themselves “finance people.” And so it was that in the 1950s, when Drucker first began writing about the shift from a command & control structure to an information-based organization, the financial best practices needed to guide and incentivize workers seem to have been altogether removed from his line of sight.
Sixty years later, the management narrative is finally being integrated by intrepid finance leaders who are busily embedding their teams along the front lines of the business (view video above). Finally, industry’s finance and management narratives are shoulder to shoulder in sharing the load and pulling the enterprise forward.
Still, these two narratives stood as separate volumes on different shelves for most of the 20th Century. If only Drucker had reflected a little more on the fact that it was GM’s CFO, and not its celebrated CEO, who had invited him inside to take a look around, perhaps, things may have been different.
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