This book is about time management, setting priorities and knowing how to make decisions. Equally important, it’s about differentiating between what’s urgent and what’s important. Do what’s important.
Effectiveness can be learned.
-Peter Drucker (The Effective Executive)
1. Know yourself, know where your time goes
- Most of the tasks of the executive require, for minimum effectiveness, a fairly large quantum of time. To spend in one stretch less than this minimum is sheer waste. One accomplishes nothing and has to begin all over again.
- To be effective, one needs to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. This is particularly true with respect to time spent working with people.
- The more people have to work together, the more time will be spent “interacting” rather than on work and accomplishment.
- Make personnel decisions slowly and make them several times before commit – give several hours of continuous and uninterrupted thought on decisions on people if you hope to come up with the right answer.
- Record where your time goes
- Find non-productive, time-wasting activities and get rid of them (i.e. things that need not be done at all or could be done by someone else just as well, if not better and time of others you yourself waste)
- Identify the time-wasters (e.g. recurrent crises that take up time), time wastes often result from overstaffing, meetings and malfunction in information
- Senior execs rarely have as much as a quarter of their time truly at their disposal. The effective executive therefore knows that he has to consolidate his discretionary time (schedule a daily work period at home, set aside mornings of days for continuous work)Control time management perpetually, keep a continuing log and analyse it periodically. Set deadlines for important activities, based on judgement of discretionary time available.
2. What can I contribute? Focus your vision on contribution
- Focus on contribution turns your attention to the outside, the only place where they are results
- Encourages you to aim high and aim at the right things
- Every organisation needs performance in 3 areas: 1. Direct results (always comes first), 2. Building of values and their reaffirmations (not unambiguous) 3. Building and developing of people (provide today the men who can run it tomorrow)
- Specialists need to be able to demonstrate their contribution to the layman and it is the job of the effective executive to facilitate this (what contribution from me do you require to make your contribution to the organisation?)
- Focus on contribution produces four basic requirements of effective human relations: 1. communications, 2. teamwork, 3. self-development and 4. development of others
- The Effective Meeting: know what they can expect to get out of a meeting and what purpose of the occasion is (Why meet?)
3. Making strength productive – an attitude expressed in action
- In making strength productive, the executive integrates individual purpose / capacity and organisation needs / results
- Strong people have strong weaknesses too.
- Ask not ‘How does he get along with me?’ but ‘What does he contribute?’
- Ask not ‘What can a man not do?’ but ‘What can he do uncommonly well?’
- 4 rules for staffing from strength: 1. Any job that has defeated two or three men in succession, even though each had performed well in his previous assignment, must be redesigned. 2. Make each job demanding and big. 3. Start with what a man can do rather than what the job requires. 4. Know that to get strength one has to put up with weaknesses. Focus on strength and dismiss his weaknesses as irrelevant unless they hamper the full deployment of the available strength.
- Only strength produces results. Weakness only produces headaches – and the absence of weakness produces nothing.
4. Do first things first
- Do first things first (concentrate) and do one thing at a time.
- There are always more important contributions to be made than there is time available to make them. There is always a time deficit.
- What is unproductive yesterday, don’t do today. We cannot know, for we can’t tell the future. And therefore we’ll always be asked to patch up the history or fix our mistakes. So make sure the mistakes are worthwhile fixing.
- Every executive forever has to spend time, energy and ingenuity on patching up or bailing out the actions and decisions of yesterday, whether his own or those of his predecessors.
5. The elements of decision-making
- Effective executives don’t make a great many decisions. They make the few decisions on the highest level of conceptual understanding.
- Five elements of effective decision making process:
- Is this a generic situation or an exception? If generic, handle with rule or principle. All events fall into four categories: a) generic event, b) unique event but really a generic problem where general rules can be applied, c) truly exceptional event, d) early manifestation of a new generic event
- Clear specifications as to what the decision has to accomplish. The more concise and clearly boundary conditions are stated, the greater the likelihood that the decision will indeed be an effective one and will accomplish what it set out to do.
- Think through what is ‘right’, that is, the solution which will fully satisfy the specification before attention is given to any compromise, adaptation, and concessions needed to make the decision acceptable.
- Converting the decision into action (who has to know of this decision? what action has to be taken? who is to take it? what does the action have to be so that people who have to do it can do it).
- Feedback which tests the validity and effectiveness of the decision against the actual course of events (because decisions are made by men, and men are fallible)
- Always assume the initial problem is generic and a symptom, and look for the true underlying problem. Suspect that which appears to be unique will be the first manifestation of a new generic problem.
6. Effective decisions
- Start with opinions – no one has ever failed to find the facts he is looking for
- Test an opinion (especially those that are tenable and worthy of interrogation) against reality
- Ask ‘What do we have to know to test the validity of this hypothesis?’
- Think, ‘What is the criterion of relevance?’ That is, what measure is appropriate to the matter under discussion? Assume that the traditional measurement is not the right one, otherwise there would generally be no need for a decision. The best way to find the appropriate measurement is to look for feedback. Insist on alternatives to measurement, so that they can choose the most appropriate one. This means argument and an insistence on disagreement. Conflict of opinion ensures all major aspects of an important matter are looked at carefully. Start out with the commitment to find out why people disagree. Concern first with understanding, when a determination of right from wrong. Finally, ask yourself, ‘Is this decision really necessary?’ One alternative is always to do nothing. At the end of the day, act (if on balance the benefits outweigh the risks) or don’t act, but don’t take half-actions. Don’t hesitate once a decision has been reached, and remember most effective decisions are not going to be popular.