I just finished reading The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker. As the title indicates this book is about effectiveness, which is defined by the author as getting the right things done. The dogma presented in this book is that it is the executive’s job to be effective and that effectiveness can be developed. As Drucker best says: “There is, in other words, no reason why anyone with normal endowment should not acquire competence in any practice. Mastery might well elude him; for this one might need special talents. But what is needed in effectiveness is competence.” The author then goes on to present the five habits/practices that have to be acquired to be an effective executive:
1) Time management: “Effective executives know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought into their control.”
2) Results-Focused: “Effective executive 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.
3) Focus on Strengths: “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.”
4) Priorities: “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.”
5) Decision Making: “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.”
Some of my favorite excerpts from the book include:
a) “Every knowledge worker in modern organization is an “executive” if, by virtue of his position or knowledge, he is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity of the organization to perform and obtain results.”
b) “The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management.” He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.”
c) “The focus on contribution by itself supplies the four basic requirements of effective human relations: communication, teamwork, self-development; and, development of others.”
d) “A superior has responsibility for the work of others. He also has power over the careers of others. making strengths productive is therefore much more than an essential of effectiveness. It is a moral imperative, a responsibility of authority and position.”
e) “The effective executive, therefore, asks: “What can my boss do really well?” “What has he done really well?” “What does he need to know to use his strength?” “What does he need to get from me to perform?” He does not worry too much over what the boss cannot do.”
f) “In human affairs, the distance between the leaders and the average is a constant. If leadership performance is high, the average will go up. The effective executive know that it easier to raise the performance of one leader htan it is to raise the performance of the whole mass.”
g) “Act if on balance the benefits greatly outweigh cost and risk; and Act or do not act; but do not “hedge” or compromise.”
h) “Self-development of the executive toward effectiveness is the only available answer. It is the only way in which organization goals and individual needs can come together.”
This book is undoubtedly in a class of its own as far as management books are concerned. As you read it, you will inadvertently recognize the many other books you have read in the management area that have been heavily influenced by the concepts presented within it. A definite must read classic in this field, a book that not only inspires but prompts effective execution and success in one’s career and personal life.