My rating: 83/100
See Book Notes for other books I have read. If you like my notes, go buy it!
Introduction: What Makes an Effective Executive?
- They asked, “What needs to be done?”
- They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
- The developed action plans.
- They took responsibility for decisions.
- They took responsibility for communicating.
- They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
- They ran productive meetings.
- They thought through and said “we” rather than “I”.
I have never encountered an executive who remains effective while tackling more than two tasks at any time.
Create a system for checking the results against the expectations. Effective executives usually build two checks into their action plans. The first check comes halfway through the plans time. The second occurs at the end.
Take responsibility for decisions. The decision has not been made until people know: The name of the person accountable for carrying it out, the deadline, the names of the people who will be affected by the decision and therefore have to know about, understand, and approve of it – or at least not be strongly opposed to it – and the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.
Good executives focus on opportunities rather than problems.
Effective executive put their best people on opportunities rather than problems.
The key to running an effective meeting is the deciding in advance what kind of meeting it will be. Different kinds of meetings require different forms of preparation of different results:
- Meeting to prepare a statement, an announcement, or a press release. For this to be productive, one member has to prepare a draft before hand. At the meetings and, a pre-appointed member has to take responsibility for disseminating the final text.
- A meeting to make an announcement – for example, an organizational change. This meeting should be confined to the announcement and a discussion about it.
- A meeting in which one member reports. Nothing but the report should be discussed.
- A meeting in which several or all members report.
- A meeting to inform the convening executive. The executive should listen and ask questions. He or she should sum up but not make a presentation.
- The executives time tends to belong to everyone else.
- Executives are forced to keep on “operating” unless they take positive action to change the reality in which they live and work.
- He is within an organization. That is, not an individual.
- The executive is within an organization. Even the largest organization is unreal compared to the reality of the environment in which it exist.
Five habits of the mind that have to be acquired to be an effective executive:
- Effective executive know where the time goes, they work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under their control.
- They gear their efforts to results rather than work.
- Effective executives build on strengths – their own strengths, the strength of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; in on the strengths of the situation, that is, and what they can do. They do not build on weakness. They do not start out with things they cannot do.
- Effective executives concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. They force themselves to set priorities and stay with their priority decisions. They know that they have no choice but to do first things first – and second things not at all. The alternative is to get nothing done.
- Effective executives, finally, make effective decisions. They make the right steps in the right sequence. What is needed are few, but fundamental, decisions. What is needed is the right strategy.
Chapter 2: Know thy time
Effective executives do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start out with planning.
The three-step process: recording time, managing time, and consolidating time.
Everything requires time. It is the one truly universal condition. All work takes place and time and uses of time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resources. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.
To be effective effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive, therefore needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks.
Advice on hiring and promotions page 29
The first step toward executive effectiveness is therefore to record actual time use.
Systematic time management is therefore the next step:
- Identify and eliminate the things that need not be done at all.
- The next question is: “Which of the activities on my time log could be done by somebody else just as well, if not better?”
- A common cause of time waste is largely under the executives control and can be a eliminated by him. That is the time of others he himself wastes.
Three diagnostic questions deal with unproductive and time-consuming activities:
- Identify the time wasters which follow from lack of system or foresight. The symptom to look for is recurrent “crisis,” the crisis that comes back year after year.
- Time wastes often result from overstaffing.
- Another common time waster is mal-organization. It’s symptom is an excess of meetings.
- The last major time waster is malfunction in information.
Some senior man work at home one day a week.
Other men schedule all the operating work – the meetings, reviews, problem sessions, and so on – for two days a week, for example, Monday and Friday, and set aside mornings other remaining days for consistent, continuing work on major issues.
Another fairly common method is to schedule a daily work period at home in the morning.
Chapter 3: What Can I Contribute?
The effective executive focuses on contribution.
Work in the right direction before working harder.
The man of knowledge has always been expected to take responsibility for being understood. My notes: This is also known as the curse of knowledge.
Four basic requirements of effective human relations:
- Communications. My notes: basically, the subordinate should tell her superior what their job is, and the superior validates or modifies the contribution. This should be on micro and macro levels of tasks.
- Self development. The man who asks of himself, “what is the most important contribution I can make to the performance of this organization?” Asked in effect, “What self-development do I need? What knowledge and skill do I have to acquire to make the contribution I should be making? What strengths do I have to put at work? What standards do I have to set to myself?”
- Set demands for excellence.
They ask themselves: “why are we having this meeting? Do we want to decision, do we want to inform, or do we want to make clear to ourselves what we should be doing?” They insist that the purpose be thought through and spelled out before meeting is called, a report asked for, or presentation organized. They insist that the meeting serve the contribution to which they have committed themselves.
The effective man always states at the outset of a meeting the specific purpose and contribution it is to achieve. He makes sure that the meeting it’s addresses itself to this purpose. He does not allow a meeting called to inform to do generate into a “full session” in which everyone has bright ideas. But a meeting called by him to stimulate thinking and ideas also does not become simply a presentation on the part of one of the members, but is run to challenge and stimulate everybody in the room. He always, at the end of his meetings, goes back to the opening statement and relates the final conclusions to the original intent.
Chapter 4: Making Strength Productive
The effective executive makes strength productive.
The executive who is concerned with what a man cannot do rather than what he can do and who therefore tries to avoid weakness rather than make strength effective is a weak man himself.
The really “demanding boss” – and one way or another all makers of men are demanding bosses – always starts out with what a man should be able to do well – and then demands that he really do it.
My notes: don’t create job titles based on personalities, fill needs with talent congruent with the need.
Effective executives keep a distance between themselves and their close colleagues.
Four rules to staff for strength without stumbling into the opposite trap of building jobs to suit personalities:
- Do not start out with the assumption the jobs are created by nature or by God. Any job that has defeated two or three men in succession, even though each had performed well in his previous assignments, must be assumed unfit for human beings. It must be redesigned.
- Make each job demanding and big. It should have challenge to bring out whatever strength man may have.
- Start with what a man can do rather than what the job requires.
- The effective executive knows that to get strength one has to put up with weakness. Altogether it must be an unbreakable rule to promote the man who buy the test of performance is best qualified for the job to be filled. All arguments the contrary he is indispensable” “he won’t be acceptable to the people there” “he is too young” or “we never put a man in there without field experience” should be given short shrift. The man improving performance has earned the opportunity. Conversely, it is the duty of the executive to remove ruthlessly anyone – and especially any manager – who consistently fails to perform with high distinction.
How do I manage my boss?
Above all, the effective executive tries to make fully productive the strength of his own superior.
Chapter 5: First Things First
Effective executive stew first things first and they do one thing at a time.
There are always more important contributions to be made then there is time available to make them.
To get even that half-day or those two weeks of really productive time requires self-discipline and an iron determination to say no.
The people who get nothing done underestimate the time for any one task. Effective executives therefore allow a fair margin of time beyond what is actually needed.
The sunk cost fallacy for time page 104
One hires new people to expand on already established and smoothly running activity.
New term: “posteriorities” – opposite of priorities, deciding what tasks not to tackle.
Make yourself a “to not do list”.
The most important thing about priorities and posteriorities is, however, not intelligent analysis but courage.
- Pick the future as against the past.
- Focus on opportunity rather than on problem.
- Choose your own direction – rather than climb on the bandwagon.
- Aim high, aim for something that will make a difference, rather than for something that is “safe” and easy to do.
Concentration – that is, the courage to impose on time and events his own decision as to what really matters and comes first – this is the executive’s only hope of becoming the master of time and events instead of their whipping boy.
Chapter 6: The Elements of Decision-Making
Make decisions as a systematic process with clearly defined elements and in distinct sequence of steps.
1. The clear realization that the problem was generic and could only be solved through decision which established a rule, the principle. Distinguish between four different types of occurrences.
- The truly generic of which the individual occurrence is only a symptom.
- A unique event for the individual institution that is actually generic. Look to the experience of others.
- A truly unique event.
- An early manifestation of a new generic problem.
The effective decision-maker always assumes initially that the problem is generic.
This also explains why the effect of decision-maker always tries to put is the solution on the highest possible conceptual level. He does not solve the immediate financing problem by issuing whatever security would be easiest to sell at the best price for the next few years. If he expects to need to Capital Market for the foreseeable future, he invents a new kind of investor and designs the appropriate security for mass Capital Market that does not yet exist. If he has to bring into line a flock of undisciplined but capable divisional presidents, he does not get rid of the most obstreperous ones and buy off the rest. He develops a constitutional concept of large-scale organization. If he sees his industry is necessarily monopolistic, he does not content himself with fulminating again socialism. He builds the public regulatory agency into a deliberate “third way” between the Charybdis of irresponsible private enterprise and check by the competition and the service of equally irresponsible, indeed essentially uncontrollable, government monopoly.
2. The second major element in the decision process is clear specifications as to what the decision has to accomplish. What are the minimum goals it has to attain? What are the conditions it has to satisfy? My notes: and what assumptions are being made about how that condition needs to be satisfied? Clear thinking about the boundary conditions is needed so that one was when a decision has to be abandoned.
3. One has to start out with what is right rather than what is acceptable.
There are two different kinds of compromise. “Half a loaf is better than no bread.” “Half a baby is worse than no baby at all.”
4. Convert the decision into action.
Converting a decision into action requires answering several distinct questions: Who has to know of the decision? What action has to be taken? Who is to take it? And what does the action have to be so that people who have to do it can do it?
All this becomes doubly important when people have to change behavior, habits, or attitudes if the decision is to become effective action.
One has to make sure that their measurements, their stands for accomplishment, and their incentives are changed simultaneously.
5. The feedback has to be built into the decision to provide a continuous testing, against actual events, but the expectations that underlie the decision.
Chapter 7: Effective Decisions
It is rarely a choice between right and wrong. It is at best a choice between “almost right” and “probably wrong” – but much more often a choice between two courses of action neither of which is provably more nearly right than the other.
Executive who make effective decisions know that one does not start with facts. One starts with opinions.
Start by finding hypotheses worthy of consideration.
The effective decision-maker assumes that the traditional measurement is not the right measurement.
Insist on alternatives of measurement, and choose the one appropriate one.
Alfred P. Sloan is reported to have said at a meeting of one of his top committees: “gentlemen, I take it we are all in agreement on the decision here.” Everyone at the table nodded assent. “Then,” continued Mr. Sloan, “I propose we postpone further discussion of the matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”
There are three main reasons for the insistence on disagreement. First, it is the only safeguard against the decision-maker’s becoming the prisoner of the organization. Second, disagreement alone can provide alternatives to the decision. Third, disagreement is needed to stimulate the imagination.
The effective decision-maker organizes disagreement. It gives him the alternative so that he can choose and make a decision. And it forces the imagination.
The effective executive is concerned first with understanding. Only then does he think about who is right and who is wrong.
There is one final question the effect of decision-maker asks: “is the decision really necessary?” One alternative is always the alternative of doing nothing.
If the answer to the question “what will happen if we do nothing?” Is “it will take care of itself,” one does not interfere. #donothing
Act if on balance the benefits greatly outweigh the cost and risk; and act or do not act; but do not “hedge” or compromise.
The surgeon who only takes out half the tonsils or half the appendix risks as much infection or shock as if if he did the whole job.
One thing the effective executive will not do at this point. He will not give into the cry, “let’s make another study.” This is the cowards way.
See conclusion pg 166 for a summary of the book.