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Effective Executive, The Paperback – March 5, 1993
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"An imaginative book, arguing, for instance, for reliance on intuitions rather than 'facts'...a survival manual on how to escape organization traps." -- Christian Science Monitor
"The dean of this country's business and management philosophers." -- Wall Street Journal
From the Back Cover
What makes an effective executive?
For decades, Peter F. Drucker has been widely regarded as “the dean of this country’s business and management philosophers” (Wall Street Journal). In this concise and brilliant work, he looks to the most influential position in management—the executive.
The measure of the executive, Drucker reminds us, is the ability to “get the right things done.” This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked and avoiding what is unproductive. In an executive position, intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results.
Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can—and must—be mastered:
- Managing time
- Choosing what to contribute to the organization
- Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect
- Setting the right priorities
- Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making
Ranging across the annals of business and government, Drucker demonstrates the distinctive skill of the executive and offers fresh insights into old and seemingly obvious business situations.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
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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."
* * *
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.
Even after 40 years, the book remains relevant. Most of my students, predominantly in their 20s, feel that the book is relevant for today. The examples are a bit dated and the use of the male pronoun throughout is awkward. Nonetheless those minor flaws are far outweighed with systematic writing and practical insight.
For Drucker, effectiveness is habit, a set of practices that can (and must) be learned. It is neither a skill, nor is it knowledge. Instead it is a set of simple practices which simply must be engaged in regularly. Drucker frees us from the idea that effective people are born, have a talent or temperament for effectiveness.
Effectiveness is "getting the right things done". This is very different from efficiency, which is merely "doing things right". Effectiveness is the key to the growth of the entrepreneurial economy.
The five habits of effectiveness are: 1) knowing where your time goes, 2) focus on outward contribution, 3) build on strengths, 4) concentrate on a few areas that produce outstanding results, and 5) make effective decisions.
Drucker walks through these habits in a highly engaging writing style. He explains and illustrates the habits and provides practical information based on his experience with dozens of executives over decades.
While many of Drucker's books are excellent, this is possibly the one that is most widely applicable for anyone who seeks to become more effective and to manage themselves for effectiveness.
- 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.
No matter how crazy the world may seem, there are always changes, advancements, innovations...opportunities to make the world of business and the larger world of management a little bit better.