Peter Drucker has been called "the father of modern management." His twenty-two books, including The Effective Executive and Managing for Results, have helped shape both American and Japanese management. Another book, The New Realities (Harper & Row), will be published in June.
As a consultant and author, he was influential in the successful reorganizing of major businesses (among them, General Motors and Sears) and advising governmental agencies (including the Department of Defense). More recently he has turned his attention to nonprofit, human services organizations, including churches, and this "Third Sector" has become the center of gravity for his consulting work.
His most recent project is a set of twenty-five audio cassettes called The Nonprofit Drucker, in which he and key Third Sector leaders, including pastors, discuss the unique challenges in leading human services organizations.
After spending two years focusing on that project, he observed: "We worry these days about the decline of the family and the disintegration of the community. But there is a strong countertrend: the creation of new bonds of community in and through the Third Sector organizations. This is a purely American development without counterpart anywhere; it may be America's most important contribution."
To ask this respected thinker and analyst what he's discovered about the church, the LEADERSHIP editors traveled to Claremont, California, where Professor Drucker, soon to celebrate his eightieth birthday, continues to teach management and social science at the Claremont Graduate School.
After a lifetime of studying management, why are you now turning your attention to the church?
Let me correct two common misunderstandings.
First, your question shows that you, like most everyone else, think of the word management as business management. Many people are surprised to find out that for thirty-five years I have been working with nonprofit institutions-hospitals, schools, charitable organizations. They'll ask, "What do you do for them? Advise them on fund raising?" I reply, "No, I don't know a thing about fund raising. I teach them management."
Thirty years ago, many nonprofits were contemptuous not only of the word management but even of the concept. They said, "We don't need management. We don't have a bottom line."
But now they all know that nonprofits need better management precisely because they don't have the discipline of the conventional bottom line to measure effectiveness.
Second, as far as I'm concerned, it's the other way around: I became interested in management because of my interest in religion and institutions. I started out teaching religion, and all of my personal experience in management has been with nonprofits-working in academia and serving on boards of everything from Blue Cross to museums.
You've observed that the "Third Sector" (the nonprofits) is the fastest growing segment of our society, growing faster than the first two sectors (government and business). Growing in what way?
Primarily in the number of people involved. There's explosive growth in what most people call "volunteers"-a misleading term, I think, because they are actually unpaid staff. The Girl Scouts have 730,000 workers who give at least three hours a week, the amount of time given at which I consider a volunteer to become unpaid staff. The Boy Scouts have a similar number, and I don't think there's much overlap. There are one and a half million people who give time to the Red Cross, not counting blood donors. The best total estimate (from Independent Sector) is 80 to 90 million adults giving time to the nonprofits. And not only have the numbers grown, but the role has grown tremendously.