Management Thinkers: Systems and Organization Business Gurus

Thomas J Watson, Sr., IBM Organization & Culture

Featuring Management pioneers in systems and organization including Alfred Sloan, Peter Drucker, Thomas Watson Sr. & Jr., Charles Handy and Henry Mintzberg.

From the early management pioneers like Fayol and Henry Ford I, to behavioural scientists, the management gurus high on the list of systems and organization management gurus include Alfred P. Sloan, Peter Drucker, the father-son Thomas Watson, Sr. and Thomas Watson, Jr, Charles Handy and Henry Mintzberg come into focus.

Alfred P. Sloan (1875-1966), Pioneer of General Motors as President and Chairman

Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr. was a long-time president and chairman of General Motors (GM). At General Motors, he was able to shape numerous concepts of business organization. He regarded an organization as a system whereby business objectives and strategies are achieved successfully. In its time, General Motors developed into the largest car maker at the same time one of the most successful companies in the world.

Peter Drucker (1909-2005), On Organizational Management By Objectives (MBO)

Peter Ferdinand Drucker, born in Vienna, Austria, was a famous management consultant, writer and professor, best known for management by objective (MBO). He was greatly influenced by philosophers John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter.

Since the publication of his first book The End of Economic Man, 1939, he has had significant impact on management thinking. His works explore how the workforce interacts in all sectors – corporations, government and non-profit organizations. In mid-50s, Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” and later regarded “knowledge work productivity” as management frontier.

Thomas Watson, Sr. (1874-1956) and Thomas Watson, Jr. (1914-1993), On IBM’s Renowned Corporate Culture and Management Style

Thomas John Watson, Sr. was the president of International Business Machines (IBM) nicknamed “Big Blue” and renowned for its management style and corporate culture. He led the company’s growth from 1914 to 1956.

IBM initially started with punched card tabulating machines. In his time, Watson, Sr., was called the world’s greatest salesman until his death in 1956. His eldest son, Thomas John Watson, Jr., a reluctant successor in his father’s shoes, went on to develop IBM perhaps beyond his father’s expectations, leading Big Blue’s company where it dominated the new computer industry. Watson, Jr. He has been dubbed “the greatest capitalist in history and became one of the “100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Charles Handy (1932- ), On Organizational Behaviour and Management

Charles Handy is an Irish author famous for books on management and organizational behaviour. In one of his best known ideas, “Shamrock Organization,” he explains that professional core workers, freelance, part-time and casual routine workers each form one leaf of the “Shamrock,” that is, each type of worker has a role to play in any organization they may be work for.

Charles Handy is among the top rated influential modern management thinkers. Some of his most popular books include The Age of Unreason, Understanding Organizations, The Hungry Spirit and The Empty Raincoat.

Henry Mintzberg (1939-), On Management and Business Strategy

Henry Mintzberg is a Canadian internationally renowned professor of management studies and author of business and management books. A prolific writer on the topics of management and business strategy, he has written numerous articles and books on these subjects, including his seminal book, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, 1994. He also advocates more emphasis on post graduates programs that educate practicing managers by relying upon actual learning through experiences rather than students with little real world experiences. Mintzberg has been recognized with awards and membership to prestigious societies, like the Strategic Management Society.

Starting from General Motor’s Sloan, MBO proponent’s Drucker, IBM’s Watsons (father and son), to Handy and Mintzberg, these management gurus have greatly shaped and influenced the idea of management thinking in terms of the structuring of the organization and its systems. More current management thinkers include ideas that relate to neuro-language programming or NLP at work, Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence, Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and de Bono’s Lateral Thinking.


  1. Clutterbuck, David and Crainer, Stuart. Makers of Management. London: MacMillan, 1990.
  2. Massie, Joseph. Essentials of Management, 4th Edition. New Jersey, US: Prentice Hall, 1986.