The Effective Executive

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Classic book on management.

Internet Archive - [1]


  • Both self fulfillment and econ goals must be met. The way to it is self-development. Most potent tool for effective orgs is effective executives.
  • Effective orgs are not common. On the whole, organizations ' performance is still primitive.
  • Orgs are not more effective bc they have better people. They have better peeps because they motivate self-development. Through standards, habits, climate.
  • Growth raises the egos from preoccupation with problems to a vision fo opportunity. Shift from focus on weakness to focus on strengths.
  • EEs raise the sights of people - their own and others.
  • Ratio of performance of executive to staff is constant. To grow the org, the exec .just grow.
  • The needs of large-scale organizations need to be satisfied by common people achieving uncommon performance - this is the central end the EE wants to elicit. P173 from mechanics to attitude to character - from procedures to commitment.
  • Effectiveness reveals itself crucial to self-developkent, organizational growth, and viability of modern society. P170 start with knowing where your time goes, moves on to contribution, which defines high standards and demands of the person.3. Making strengths productive. 4. First things First - yields leadership of dedication and purpose. 5. Decisions are about identifying deep patterns and their solutions, not bandaids. Then there are e knowledge, skills, and habits - but without the 5 elements of effectiveness - knowledge and skills are of little use. Hence Effectiveness Literacy, then knowledge, skills, habits.
  • Effectiveness while it can be learned, it cannot be taught. It is not a subject but a self-discipline.
  • Computer logic machines are essentially morons, for computer logic is stupid.
  • Most effective decisions are distasteful. When it is to be made, after facts are in - the EE does not do another study, but acts. P57 there may be an inner demon that says no don't do it. 9/10 it is a trfle. But 1/10 - needs to go back if overlooked something.
  • The opposition is a means to think through the alternatives.
  • Imagination is disciplined disagreement. If parties are ready to negotiate, magic will follow. P153. It is not about right or wrong, but commitment to find why people disagree. The Eff decisionmaker seeks to discover if controversy is ignorance or valid, understanding that there could be fools or mischiefmakers in the midst. EE gives them an A.
  • The EE organizes disagreement - to tap imagination. It creates alternatives, and prevents going with special interests (every subordinate has special interests)
  • The EE encourages opinions - then helps peeps design a an experiment and measurement. Wow. Is it this bad?
  • The effective decision maker assumes that the typical measurement is not the right measurement. P145.
  • People don't start decisions with facts, they start with opinions. How? People are prone to find facts to fit their conclusion. To determine a fact, criteria of relevance are needed, especially how to measure. Thus - assume it's an opinion and discuss the required test for the hypothesis (opinion)
  • Decisions are not right or wrong. It is probably a course of action that is no more right than another. (At high level?) A decision that is right or wrong is not a decision because it is easy?
  • It is fruitless to think about what is acceptable. Just need to consider what is right (do the right thing)
  • An executive who makes many decisions is both lazy and ineffectual
  • EE assumes that the problem in front of him is a symptom of a larger problem, and thus thinks at the highest conceptual level to arrive at a solution
  • Nationalization is a failure to raise capital rather than socialism.
  • In most research labs they do defensive research, ie to perpetuate present technology
  • Bell Labs was the first industrial lab designed to make the present obsolete
  • Contrary to Good to Great, Drucker calls for fresh blood from outside instead of rising through ranks for highest level homegrown mgmt
  • Until a decision has degenerate into work, it is not a decision but at best an intention
  • Executives know when to make decisions on principle vs pragmatically p114
  • Studies of research performance shows that scientific accomplishment is related more to courage to follow opportunity rather than ability (unless you are Einstein) p112
  • Concentration - courage to impose on time what really matters and comes first p 112
  • Set priorities and posteriorities - deciding which tasks not to tackle
  • One hires to expand something that is already running smooth. Hiring in for new tasks is too risky. P107
  • Parable of the talents says it is not the goal to change people. It is to put their strengths to use
  • The difference between the performance of the leader and the average is constant. It is easier to raise the performance of a leader than to raise the performance of a mass
  • The moment any new record is set, every athlete gains on accomplishment
  • The standard is set by the performance of the leaders
  • The EE looks upon people as an opportunity
  • For effectiveness, feed opportunities and starve problems
  • Very important for EE to build strengths of their superior in order to be effective p95
  • People get their info through reading or listening, rare are both though trial lawyers must be, and others rare get info by talking and radaring in on responses. It is wasteful to talk to a reader prior to submitting a report, as it is to submit a voluminous report to a listener.
  • Orgs must serve the individual through his strengths, irrespective of his weakness. This is a moral duty.
  • Every people-decision is a gamble; basing it on what a man can do derisks it
  • What Marshall had was principles: "What could this man do?"
  • Must ruthlessly remove any person especially manager who fails to deliver performance with distinction. It demotivates. It brings the place down. It is unfair to subordinates who miss a chance to grow. It is cruel to the sucker - he knows it whether he admits it or not - so he gets slowly destroyed.
  • Beware of 'indispensible man'- he is really incompetent, hiding incompetence of superior, or masking a pro blem. Wow.
  • There is no generally good man there's a good man for a specific task
  • Abilities must be specific to produce performance
  • Twoediocrities do not add to an excellent man. Two mediocrities are worse than one, as they get in each other's way
  • Effective executives start a person with what they can do and not what the job requires
  • All the people who are frustrated with their work are saying that their abilities are not being put to use
  • If a job is too small or easy it never tests what the person can or should do. Is the person even in the right place?
  • There are reliable tests for skills of manual work. What are they
  • The exec must find what the person can do
  • A big job allows someone to rise. A big job is a chance to perform. Before this, in school you only need to show promise
  • The second rule for staffing is to make a job demanding and big. It must have a challenge that brings out the strength of the man doing it. It should have enough scope to capture the strength of the person
  • The effective executive must have well-designed jobs, one's which are not impossible p80
  • The test of a company is to make common people achieve uncommon performance
  • Re immediate colleagues - EE seems performance, not conformance
  • To tolerate diversity, relationships must be task focused, not personality focused
  • EEs know that their subordinates are paid to perform, please their superiors.
  • Growth depends on self-demand. Those of high SD achieve great stature, without more effort than nonachievers.
  • Individual self-development depends on a focus on contribution. What is the most important contributionis same as asking how I can self-development - as that is required for higher performance. P68
  • Sideways communication - who has to use my output for it to become effective?
  • What are the contributions to which I, your superior, should hold you accountable? What would be the best use of your knowledge and ability?
  • Good human relations are those relations based on contribution and are productive.
  • The generalist is a specialist who can relate their small area of knowledge to the greater universe.
  • What contribution do you require of me to make your contribution?
  • Effective executives must be concerned with the usability of their knowledge by others
  • The man of knowledge has always been expected to make himself understood.
  • People adjust to the level of demands made on them.
  • A certainty in human affairs is change
  • The future generation should take for granted what the former has accomplished. P57
  • An org that has not perpetuated itself has failed.
  • If there is confusion on what results should be, there is no results. P55
  • Know thyself. Know thy time. P.52
  • Work force is too large if more than a small Amount of time is spent managing friction
  • P38 What do I do to you that wastes your time without adding to your effectiveness? To ask this without being afraid of the truth is a mark of an effective executive
  • Five things. EE know where their time goes. They gear their efforts for results, not work. They build on strengths. They focus and prioritize. Make effective decisions - based on strategy.
  • Effectiveness requires competence, not special talent.
  • Effectiveness means getting the right things done p22
  • There is no effective personality. Effectiveness is learned.
  • Point: skill and knowledge are rare, thus increasing effectiveness from people of mediocre skill or knowledge is the game of being an effective executive, in the broad sense.
  • Operations research people were supposed to be polymaths, but then their deep skill would be wasted on operations? P19
  • But we do have ample supply of the incompetent
  • We could use people of broader knowledge. We certainly could use people of much greater abilities in many places. But not much can be done with further effort in these 2 areas. P18. Bullshit.
  • Brilliant men are often strikingly ineffectual - p11
  • Manual work - doing things right rather getting the right things done.
  • The greatest wisdom not applied to action is meaningless data -p5
  • You can manage no one yet be an executive p8
  • Execs - make decisions of impact upon results
  • Because of 4 affordances of the corporation, the exec should assume that he will be ineffective, unless special means are taken to become effective.


  1. The book 'The Effective Executive' by Peter Drucker is fascinating, first off - 'many brilliant (high ability) people are markedly ineffectual'
  2. Effectiveness can be learned.
  3. There are unfortunately few brilliant people, but luckily average people who learn to be effective pick up the slack.
  4. My conclusion: 'briliance. should be redefined as 'Effectiveness Intelligence'. This is a positive outlook on the future, as it can be learned. And it demotes the armchair theorists from the status of prime movers (today) to insignificance.
  5. One other great point: orgs are doomed because communication between specialists is difficult. There is no such thing as a 'generalist' according to Drucker, only 'specialists in multiple areas'. This is a central question OSE struggles with.

There is a solution - Drucker says that the concept of 'contribution' to the org or to the world is what breaks specialists out of the communication trap (they suck at communicating). Because 'contribution' makes the specialists concerned with the usability of their knowledge by others. For OSE, this means 'culture' is prime: culture of contribution, culture of 'solving pressing world issues' - which is as big a contribution as one can imagine.

There is transcendence: with enough discipline, we can learn more than effectiveness: genius. One of OSE's core question is 'mass creation of genius', and our company can be a place where people can do that full time from the time they graduate high school.