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The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials) Paperback – January 3, 2006
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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About the Author
Peter F. Drucker is considered the most influential management thinker ever. The author of more than twenty-five books, his ideas have had an enormous impact on shaping the modern corporation. Drucker passed away in 2005.
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This is the 50th anniversary edition of a book first published in 1967. Jim Collins provides the Foreword and Zachary First the Afterword. In my opinion, Peter Drucker (1909-2005) is the most influential business thinker as indicated by the endless list of other thought leaders who continue to acknowledge his value and significance to their own work. He always insisted on referring to himself as a “student” or “bystander.” With all due respect to his wishes, I have always viewed him as a pioneer who surveyed and defined dimensions of the business world that no one else had previously explored.
Consider this passage in the Foreword: “Here are ten lessons I learned from Peter Drucker and this book, and that I offer as a small portal of entry into the mind of the greatest management thinker off all time.” These are the lessons that Collins cites and discusses:
1. First, manage thyself.
2. Do what you’re made for.
3. Work how you work best (and let others do the same).
4. Count your time, and make it count.
5. Prepare better meetings.
6. Don’t make a hundred decisions when one will do.
7. Find your one big distinctive impact.
8. Stop what you would not start.
9. Run lean.
10. Be useful.
“He was in the end, Collins adds, "the highest level of what a teacher can be: a role model of the very ideas he taught, a walking testament to his teachings in the tremendous lasting effect of his own life.”
As was true of Collins and will be true 0f everyone else who reads one of the several editions, they will have their own take-aways. Drucker provides a framework in the Introduction, stressing while discussing the importance of eight specific practices that all great business and non-profit CEOs are committed to, such as asking “What needs to be done?” and “What is right for the enterprise?” The first two enable them to obtain the information they need.
The next four help them to convert this knowledge into effective action:
3. Develop action plans.
4. Take responsibility for decisions [and their consequences].
5. Take responsibility for communicating.
6. Are focused on opportunities rather on problems.
The last two ensure that the entire organization feels responsible and accountable
7. Run productive meetings.
8. Think and feel “we” rather than “I.”
Yes, these are basic and obvious practices but they were not five decades ago. Until Drucker, thinking about management lacked order, structure, clarity, and focus. Borrowing a phrase from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Drucker developed thinking about management to “the other side of complexity.” To paraphrase, Albert Einstein, Drucker made management “as simple as possible but no simpler.”
In the Introduction Peter Drucker concludes, “We’ve just covered eight practices of effective executives. I’m going to throw in one final, bonus practice. This one’s so important that I’ll elevate it to the level of a rule: [begin italics] Listen first, speak last [end italics]”...And, like every discipline, effectiveness [begin italics] can [end italics] and [begin italics] must [end italics] be earned.”
The title of this review is a portion of one of Peter Drucker's most important insights: "The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The true dangerous thing is asking the wrong question."
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I first read this book when it was originally published in 1967 and have since re-read it several times because, in my opinion, it provides some of Peter Drucker's most important insights on how to "get the right work done and done the right way." By nature an "executive" is one who "executes," producing a desired result (an "effect") that has both impact and value. As Drucker once observed in an article that appeared in Harvard Business Review at least 40 years ago, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." Therefore, the effective executive must develop sound judgment. Difficult - sometimes immensely difficult - decisions must be made. Here are eight practices that Drucker recommended 45 years ago:
o Ask, "what needs to be done?"
o Ask, "What is right for the enterprise?"
o Develop an action plan
o Take responsibility for decisions.
o Take responsibility for communications.
o Focus on opportunities rather than on problems.
o Conduct productive meetings.
o Think in terms of first-person PLURAL pronouns ("We" rather than "I").
The first two practices give executives the knowledge they need; the next four help them convert this knowledge into effective action; the last two ensure that the entire organization feels responsible and accountable, and will thus be more willing to become engaged. "I'm going to throw in one final, bonus practice. This one's so important that I'll elevate it to the level of a rule: [begin italics] Listen first, speak last." [end italics]
This volume consists of eight separate but interdependent essays that begin with "Effectiveness Can Be Learned" and conclude with "Effective Decisions." Actually, there is a "Conclusion" in which Drucker asserts that "Effectiveness Must Be Learned." I agree. The essays are arranged in a sequence that parallels a learning process that prepares an executive to "assume responsibility, rather than to act the subordinate, satisfied only if he `pleases the boss.' In focusing himself and his vision on contribution the executive, in other words, has to think through purposes and ends rather than means alone."
I highly recommend this to all executives who need an easy-to-read collection of reminders of several basic but essential insights from one of the most important business thinkers, Peter Drucker. I also presume to suggest that they, in turn, urge each of their direct reports to obtain a copy and read it. The last time I checked, Amazon sells a paperbound edition for only $11.55. Its potential value is incalculable.
It's also still the best.
Although his examples are dated, Drucker still lays out the cleanest explanation and game plan for anyone who finds themself in the position of leading a company. This book is about both leadership and management, and if you don't understand the difference, all the more reason to buy it.
- First- and second-level managers nowadays usually don't know anywhere near as much as their people about the job's true challenges and solutions.
- It rarely works to try to make a person something that he/she simply is not. Capitalize on people's skills instead of trying to manufacture skills in them.
- If a person has a major weakness in his role, don't try to fix the situation by splitting the role with another person who has complementary skills and weaknesses. Both will struggle. Things will most likely worsen.
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