The Effective Executive
||The Effective Executive
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- Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results. By themselves, they only set limits to what can be attained.
- Working on the right things is what makes knowledge work effective.
- If the executive lets the flow of events determine what he does, what he works on, and what he takes seriously, he will fritter himself away “operating.” He may be an excellent man. But he is certain to waste his knowledge and ability and to throw away what little effectiveness he might have achieved. What the executive needs are criteria which enable him to work on the truly important, that is, on contributions and results, even though the criteria are not found in the flow of events.
- Effectiveness, in other words, is a habit; that is, a complex of practices. And practices can always be learned. Practices are simple, deceptively so; even a seven-year-old has no difficulty in understanding a practice. But practices are always exceedingly hard to do well. They have to be acquired, as we all learn the multiplication table; that is, repeated ad nauseam until “6 x 6 = 36” has become unthinking, conditioned reflex, and firmly ingrained habit. Practices one learns by practicing and practicing and practicing again.
- Effective executives know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under their control.
- Effective executives focus on outward contribution. They gear their efforts to results rather than to work. They start out with the question, “What results are expected of me?” rather than with the work to be done, let alone with its techniques and tools.
- Effective executives build on strengths—their own strengths, the strengths of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; and on the strengths in the situation, that is, on what they can do. They do not build on weakness. They do not start out with the 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 know that this is, above all, a matter of system—of the right steps in the right sequence. They know that an effective decision is always a judgment based on “dissenting opinions” rather than on “consensus on the facts.” And they know that to make many decisions fast means to make the wrong decisions. What is needed are few, but fundamental, decisions. What is needed is the right strategy rather than razzle-dazzle tactics.
- An executive’s focus on contribution by itself is a powerful force in developing people. People adjust to the level of the demands made on them. The executive who sets his sights on contribution, raises the sights and standards of everyone with whom he works.
- The effective executive fills positions and promotes on the basis of what a man can do. He does not make staffing decisions to minimize weaknesses but to maximize strength.
- To tolerate diversity, relationships must be task-focused rather than personality-focused. Achievement must be measured against objective criteria of contribution and performance. This is possible, however, only if jobs are defined and structured impersonally. Otherwise the accent will be on “Who is right?” rather than on “What is right?” In no time, personnel decisions will be made on “Do I like this fellow?” or “Will he be acceptable?” rather than by asking “Is he the man most likely to do an outstanding job?”
- One implication is that the men who build first-class executive teams are not usually close to their immediate colleagues and subordinates. Picking people for what they can do rather than on personal likes or dislikes, they seek performance, not conformance. To insure this outcome, they keep a distance between themselves and their close colleagues.
- General Marshall during World War II insisted that a general officer be immediately relieved if found less than outstanding.
- Courage rather than analysis dictates the truly important rules for identifying priorities: Pick the future as against the past; Focus on opportunity rather than on problem; Choose your own direction—rather than climb on the bandwagon; and Aim high, aim for something that will make a difference, rather than for something that is “safe” and easy to do.
- The effective executive does not, in other words, truly commit himself beyond the one task he concentrates on right now. Then he reviews the situation and picks the next one task that now comes first. Concentration—that is, the courage to impose on time and events his own decision as to what really matters and comes first—is the executive’s only hope of becoming the master of time and events instead of their whipping boy.
- The creator of a different future and the enemy of today.
- The effective decision-maker, therefore, always assumes initially that the problem is generic. He always assumes that the event that clamors for his attention is in reality a symptom. He looks for the true problem. He is not content with doctoring the symptom alone. And if the event is truly unique, the experienced decision-maker suspects that this heralds a new underlying problem and that what appears as unique will turn out to have been simply the first manifestation of a new generic situation. This also explains why the effective decision-maker always tries to put his solution on the highest possible conceptual level.
- A decision is a judgment. It is a choice between alternatives. 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.
- People experienced in an area should be expected to have an opinion. Not to have an opinion after having been exposed to an area for a good long time would argue an unobservant eye and a sluggish mind.
- The only way to break out of the prison of special pleading and preconceived notions is to make sure of argued, documented, thought-through disagreements.
- Executives are not paid for doing things they like to do. They are paid for getting the right things done—most of all in their specific task, the making of effective decisions.
- Knowledge work is not defined by quantity. Neither is knowledge work defined by its costs. Knowledge work is defined by its results.
- Meetings are by definition a concession to deficient organization For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time. In an ideally designed structure (which in a changing world is of course only a dream) there would be no meetings. Everybody would know what he needs to know to do his job.
- To ask, “What can I contribute?” is to look for the unused potential in the job. And what is considered excellent performance in a good many positions is often but a pale shadow of the job’s full potential of contribution.
- It is amazing how many things busy people are doing that never will be missed.
- Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.