The King of Productivity: Peter Drucker
Effectiveness = Habits
Every effective leader had to learn to be effective and the ability to be effective is really just the use of efficient practices. Consistent use of these practices become habits, and these habits lead to effectiveness.
That means there’s no massive undertaking you must complete in order to be effective, just small, daily practices that when added up over time equal being effective. “You are what you repeatedly do…”
Leaders Come in Different Shapes & Sizes
“An effective executive does not need to be a leader in the sense that the term is now most commonly used. Harry Truman did not have one ounce of charisma, for example, yet he was among the most effective chief executives in U.S. history. Similarly, some of the best business and nonprofit CEOs I’ve worked with over a 65-year consulting career were not stereotypical leaders. They were all over the map in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. They ranged from extroverted to nearly reclusive, from easygoing to controlling, from generous to parsimonious”.
“All they have in common is that they get the right things done”.
Intelligence is Useless Unless it’s Effective
“Brilliant men are often strikingly ineffectual”
“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.”
Are you Managing Yourself?
Executives who do not manage themselves for effectiveness cannot possibly expect to manage their associates and subordinates. Management is largely by example. Executives who do not know how to make themselves effective in their own job and work set the wrong example.
Time = Gold
Nothing else distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.
You must make choices about what you will and won’t do with your time.
“If one cannot increase the supply of a resource, one must increase its yield. And effectiveness is the one tool to make the resources of ability and knowledge yield more and better results.”
“Effective executives, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start out with planning. They start by finding out where their time actually goes. Then they attempt to manage their time and to cut back unproductive demands on their time. Finally, they consolidate their “discretionary” time into the largest possible continuing units.”
“The first step toward executive effectiveness is to record actual time-use.”
“Systematic time management is therefore the next step. One has to find the nonproductive, time-wasting activities and get rid of them if one possibly can. This requires asking oneself a number of diagnostic questions.”
Secondly, ask: which activities could be done by someone else?
ABC (Always be contributing)
To be effective, replace the quest for success with the quest for contribution. The critical question is not, ‘How can you achieve?’ but ‘What can you contribute?
Three areas are outlined for contribution:
“The man who asks of himself, “What is the most important contribution I can make to the performance of this organization?” asks 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 to work? What standards do I have to set myself?””
Organise for Success
“An organisation is a means to overcome the limitations of one person’s contribution”.
As an executive, you are part of an organization, either as a leader or an integral part of it. That organization’s task is to help ordinary individuals achieve extraordinary results.
“The test of organization is not genius. It is its capacity to make common people achieve uncommon performance.”
Build on Strengths, Forget Weaknesses
The effective executive knows that to get strength one has to put up with weaknesses. Start with what people can do instead of what they can’t do. Ask what have they done well before?
“In an organization one can make his strength effective and his weakness irrelevant”.
Start with yourself. Ask what are the things that I seem to be able to do with relative ease that come rather hard to other people?
Look to leverage people’s strengths, not try to fix their weaknesses. You could try to teach Joe Montana to throw left-handed, but why?
The task of an executive is not to change human beings. Rather, as the Bible tells us in the Parable of the Talents, the task is to multiply performance capacity of the whole by putting to use whatever strength, whatever health, whatever aspiration there is in individuals.
Finally, make all jobs demanding and big. Challenges bring out strengths.
“Trickle Down Leadership”
If leadership performance is high, the average will go up. The effective executive knows that it is easier to raise the performance of one leader than it is to raise the performance of a whole mass.
Improved leadership and management filters down throughout the organisation and has a wider impact.
It’s Easy: Do What NEEDS to be Done
“What the executive needs is criteria which enable him to work on the truly important”
“The first practice is to ask what needs to be done. Note that the question is not ‘What do I want to do?’”
The truly fortunate, and effective executives are those who can answer both of the above questions with the same answer. If what needs to be done matches what you want to do, you’ve found the work that is right for you.
It’s not good enough for you, the effective executive, to get things done. You must also get the right things done. By looking at the needs of the business, you have to determine where your contributions will make the largest impact, and then execute, delivering for the business what needed to be delivered.
Asking what has to be done, and taking the question seriously, is crucial for managerial success. After asking what needs to be done, the effective executive sets priorities and sticks to them.
Delegate to Fill in your Weakness
Effective executives try to focus on jobs they’ll do especially well.
In the areas where executives have weaknesses, they should delegate. Everyone has such areas; there’s no such thing as a universal executive genius.
When Jack Welch went through his 5-year planning, he asked himself which of the two or three tasks at the top of the list he himself was best suited to undertake. Then he concentrated on that task; the others he delegated.
Focus on ONE Major Piece of Work
The answer to the question “What needs to be done?” almost always contains more than one urgent task. But effective executives do not splinter themselves. They concentrate on one task if at all possible.
Hence, after asking what needs to be done, the effective executive chooses a narrow set of priorities and sticks to them. For a CEO, the priority task might be redefining the company’s mission. For a unit head, it might be redefining the unit’s relationship with headquarters. Other tasks, no matter how important or appealing, are postponed.
The reason why so few executives concentrate is the difficulty of setting deciding what tasks not to tackle— and of sticking to the decision.”
Jack Welch realized that what needed to be done at General Electric when he took over as chief executive was not the overseas expansion he wanted to launch. It was getting rid of GE businesses that, no matter how profitable, could not be number one or number two in their industries.
If they are among those people—a sizable minority—who work best with a change of pace in their working day, they pick two tasks. I have never encountered an executive who remains effective while tackling more than two tasks at a time.
After completing the original top-priority task, the executive resets priorities rather than moving on to number two from the original list. He asks, “What must be done now?” This generally results in new and different priorities.
Every five years, according to his autobiography, Jack Welch asked himself, “What needs to be done now?” And every time, he came up with a new and different priority.
Slow & Focused = Fast
Multitasking may be the norm these days, but it is single-tasking that makes you effective. You have far more to-do than can reasonably be done, and the fastest way to get from one task to another is to focus on that one thing until it is completed.
“Effective executives do not race. They set an easy pace but keep going steadily.”
By setting priorities, as well consciously choosing what not to do, you’ll also know that the single item you are working on is the most important contribution you can be making right now.
How to Write an Action Plan:
Executives are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been translated into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan their course in the form of an action plan (written down).
Napoleon allegedly said that no successful battle ever followed its plan. Yet Napoleon also planned every one of his battles, far more meticulously than any earlier general had done. The more planning you do the more you can be prepared for unexpected events.
The action plan will help the executive think about:
The action plan is a statement of intentions rather than a commitment. It must not become a straitjacket. It should be revised often, because every success creates new opportunities. So does every failure. The same is true for changes in the business environment, in the market, and especially in people within the enterprise—all these changes demand that the plan be revised. A written plan should anticipate the need for flexibility.
A systematic decision review can also be a powerful tool for self-development, too. Checking the results of a decision against its expectations shows executives what their strengths are, where they need to improve, and where they lack knowledge or information. It shows them their biases.
Spend your Time on Opportunities NOT Problems
“The bigger and apparently more successful an organization gets to be, the more will inside events tend to engage the interests, the energies, and the abilities of the executive to the exclusion of his real tasks and his real effectiveness in the outside.”
“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.”
When you are trying to determine what needs to be done, you should focus on opportunities, and get yourself out of internal problems. Problems can usually be solved through delegation, but opportunities require the know-how of the effective executive to be fully leveraged.
“Problem-solving does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produces results.”
Ride the Waves of Change; Don’t Ignore Them
Above all, effective executives treat change as an opportunity rather than a threat. They systematically look at changes, inside and outside the corporation, and ask, “How can we exploit this change as an opportunity for our enterprise?” Specifically, executives scan these seven situations for opportunities:
Match the Best People with the Best Opportunities
Staffing is another important aspect of being opportunity focused. Effective executives put their best people on opportunities rather than on problems. One way to staff for opportunities is to ask each member of the management group to prepare two lists every six months—a list of opportunities for the entire enterprise and a list of the best-performing people throughout the enterprise.
These are discussed, then melded into two master lists, and the best people are matched with the best opportunities. In Japan, this matchup is considered a major HR task in a big corporation or government department; that practice is one of the key strengths of Japanese business.
When you are deciding on which tasks to focus, choose the one that will have the biggest impact and will make a difference. Often times this will take courage as the biggest opportunities come with the biggest perceived risk. But your job as an effective executive is not to play it safe or maintain the status quo, it is to strive for excellence.
“Scientists have shown that achievement depends less on ability in doing research than on the courage to go after opportunity.”
Concentrating your contributions to those opportunities that can make a difference makes all the difference in your level of effectiveness.
The Fortune 500 favours the bold.
Having confidence in yourself and your decisions is vital to becoming an effective executive. An unsure person wavers on decisions and second-guesses their actions, but an effective executive is constantly moving forward.
“To be more requires a man who is conceited enough to believe that the world really needs him and depends on his getting into power.”
There’s Never a Perfect Decision
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.
Be your Own Life Coach
People grow according to the demands they make on themselves. They grow according to what they consider to be achievement and attainment. If they demand little of themselves, they will remain stunted. If they demand a good deal of themselves, they will grow to giant stature.
The One Thing to Do Before you Make Any Decision:
Unless one has considered alternatives, one has a closed mind.
Hence, decisions are made only well when based on a clash of conflicting views, alternatives; choices between different judgements.
Without disagreement, no decision should be made.
Effective executives use conflict of opinion as their tool to make sure all major aspects of an important matter are looked at carefully.
Different opinions lead to more effective decisions as it stimulates new ways of thinking, generates new options and doesn’t let the responsibility of a decision lean on one person.
The effective decision-maker, therefore, organizes disagreement. …Disagreement converts the plausible into the right and the right into the good decision.
Seek the Fastest Way to Validate
Once you get opinions, designate one person to seek out the facts to back up the opinion.
The effective executive then asks what do we have to know to test the validity of this hypothesis?
Fresh People = Fresh Perspectives
An organization needs to bring in fresh people with fresh points of view fairly often. If it only promotes from within it soon becomes inbred and eventually sterile.
Don’t Waste Decision-Making on Small Issues
Well managed organizations are “boring” because few crises occur and “fire drills” are limited to actual test of a building’s fire system.
That’s because as an effective executive, you have to create a set of rules or processes that manage for the predictable occurrences. If you are constantly making decisions, it’s because you haven’t looked at the big picture and established guidelines.
“An executive who makes many decisions is both lazy and ineffectual.”
If something out of the ordinary does arise, or circumstances change, you should make the decision that is both best for the situation and that can be reapplied again if necessary. Making the same decision twice is redundant, inefficient and redundant.
Good Communication Rests on your Shoulders
Effective executives make sure that both their action plans and their information needs are understood. Specifically, this means that they share their plans with and ask for comments from all their colleagues – superiors, subordinates, and peers. At the same time, they let each person know what information they’ll need to get the job done. Executives also focus on information flow from subordinates upward.
Create an Information Flow through the Organisation
Throughout the ages the problem has always been how to get ‘communication’ out of ‘information’.
Because information had to be handled and transmitted by people, it was always distorted by communications, that is, by opinion, impression, comment, judgment, bias, and so on.
The more we automate information-handling, the more we will have to create opportunities for effective communication.
Think and Say “We”
Don’t think or say “I.” Think and say “we.” Effective executives know that they have ultimate responsibility, which can be neither shared nor delegated. But they have authority only because they have the trust of the organization.
This means that they think of the needs and the opportunities of the organization before they think of their own needs and opportunities. This one may sound simple; it isn’t, but it needs to be strictly observed.
Get Rid of Dead Wood
Executives also owe it to the organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs. It may not be the employees’ fault that they are underperforming, but even so, they have to be removed.
To be Effective Start Self-Development
Self-development of the executive towards effectiveness is the only integrator available.
Effectiveness is not like a subject in school that can be taught from a textbook. It is a self-discipline that must be learned – it’s never inherited.
To summarise, effective executives did the following 8 things. The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed. The next four helped them convert this knowledge into effective action. The last two ensured that the whole organization felt responsible and accountable.