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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 MP3 CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
1) Knows where their time goes. Time is the most valuable resource and is inelastic. It must be managed. What has priority? What is better left undone? What can be outsourced?
2) Focuses on results (not effort) by asking:
"What do I do that justifies my being on the payroll?" (pg 53).
3) Staff to people's strength (not the absence of weakness).
There is no such thing as a "good man". Good at what? Likewise, a person is hired to produce results, not to please a superior, or blend in.
4) Fills the job with the right person (not fits the job to the available person). Jobs in the organization are interdependent; if one changes, it will affect another. Also, "To tolerate diversity, relationships must be task-focused rather than personality focused." (pg 77)
5) Tries to be himself / herself (not someone else). (S)He looks for patterns in their performance, and focus on their strengths. "Feed the opportunities and starve the problems." (pg 98)
6) Concentrates on one effort at a time. (not multi-tasking)
It is hard enough to do one thing right.
7) Concentrates on important and strategic decisions (not a great number of small, reactionary decisions). Many problems were created in the past, and solving them only re-establishes the status quo. It is better to seek opportunities than just fix problems.
8) Makes decisions based on dissenting opinions (not pseudo facts and pre-judgements) Use other's opinions to form a case for each side.
9) Acts or does not act (no hedging or compromise)
* * *
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.
One of the most famous quotes by Peter Drucker is that he sometimes refers to himself as an "insultant" rather than a consultant. His straight talk in this book will direct you onto the right path for helping your organization accomplish more.
Peter Drucker begins this book by pointing out that there is no science of how to improve executive effectiveness, nor any naturally-occurring effective executives. The redeeming point of this problem is that he argues that executive effectiveness can be learned.
The principles begin with a focus on time management. We can get greater quantities of every other resource we need, except time. Drucker reports that executives spend their time much differently than they think they do and much differently than they would like to. His solution is to begin by measuring how you spend your time, and compare it with an ideal allocation. Than begin to systematically get rid of the unimportant in favor of the important. His suggestions include stopping some things, delegation, creating policy decisions to replace ad hoc decisions, staying out of things that others should do, and so forth. Any student of time management will recognize the list he suggests. One of the best points is to give yourself large blocks of uninterrupted time to do more significant tasks. He also cautions us not to cut down on time spent with other people. If an hour is required, don't try to do it in 15 minutes.
Next, Drucker argues that we should focus on what will make a difference rather than unimportant questions. Otherwise, we will fill our time with motion rather than proceeding towards results.
Beyond that, he points out that we have to build on our own strengths and those of the people in our organization. That is how we can outperform the competition and accomplish much more.
We also need to be systems thinkers, getting to the core of the issue first. If you would like to know more about that subject, look at The Fifth Discipline. For example, if you are weak on new products, you need to work on the new product development process before fine-tuning your marketing. If you reverse the order of these activities, your results will be far less.
Perhaps the best section in the book has to do with executive decision-making, when to make a decision, about what, and what principles to apply. If you only read this section, you would be well rewarded for studying this fine book.
I especially liked the familiar Drucker use of important historical examples to make his points. You'll remember the principles better because the examples are so vivid.
Although this book was written some time ago, it retains the strength of its insight today. Truly , this is a timeless way to achieve greater effectiveness.
You may be concerned about how you are going to learn to apply these concepts. That is actually quite easy. Drucker provides questions in each section that will guide you, step-by-step, to focus your attention on the most promising areas.
If you only read one book about how to improve your personal effectiveness as an executive, you will find this to be a rewarding choice.
If you liked what Peter Drucker had to say in this book, you may want to read his latest book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, to get your agenda for using the skills you developed from The Effective Executive.