In earlier posts in this series on Peter Drucker’s book The Effective Executive: the definitive guide to getting the right things done, we reviewed his list of basic practices:
“….know where their time goes.”
“….focus on outward contribution”
“….build on strengths….”
“….concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.”
“…. make effective decisions.”
This posting is devoted to the third practice, build on strengths.((1))
The effective executive makes strength productive. He knows that one cannot build on weakness. To achieve results, one has to use all of the available strengths – the strengths of associates, the strengths of the superior, and one’s own strengths. These strengths are the true opportunities. To make strength productive is the unique purpose of organization. It cannot, of course, overcome the weaknesses with which each of us is abundantly endowed. But it can make them irrelevant. Its task is to use the strength of each man as a building block for joint performance.((2))
“To Focus on Contribution is to Focus on Effectiveness”
This is the fourth in a series discussing the 1968 book by Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive: the definitive guide to getting the right things done. In this part we will focus on the third chapter, “What Can I Contribute?”
“The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward towards goals. He asks, “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and results of the institution I serve?” His stress is on responsibility.”((1)) …..
“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, in in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management”. He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.”
Time – a most valuable resource but always fleeting
In the previous posting in this series we closed with Drucker’s five essential practices for managers.
know where their time goes.
focus on outward contribution.
build on strengths….
concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.
make effective decisions.
This posting focuses on the first of these, time.
Time is a central resource, yet unlike other resources it cannot be inventoried, purchased, or controlled in any way. It is always the scarcest resource. Thus the use of our time and the organization’s time is critical to achieving results.
Effectiveness Depends on Continuous, Uninterrupted Blocks of Time
“Time in large, continuous, and uninterrupted units is needed….”((1)) A manager who can only find brief moments for reflective thought is bound to think about only what is at hand, what they already know, and what they have already done.
Drucker argues that there is a three step process that is the foundation of effectiveness in managing time. First is recording the use of time, second is managing time,((2)) and third is the consolidation of discretionary time. These are the steps to coming to grips with how one’s time is being used now.
all quotes are from Chapter Two – Know Thy Time in Drucker’s The Effective Executive [↩]
the use of the word “managing” here refers to the setting of priorities and making choices about the use of time. There is no sense to thinking that time is managed in the way every other resource in the organization can be managed. [↩]
In Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, he outlines eight management practices in the introduction that are the core skills of the effective manager:
They asked, “What needs to be done?”
They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
They developed action plans.
They took responsibility for decisions
They took responsibility for communicating
They focused on opportunities rather than problems.
They ran productive meetings.
They thought and said “we” rather than “I”.
But, before really getting to work on these he takes on some very interesting foundational issues. First, “… the executive is, first of all, expected to get the right things done. And this is simply that he is expected to be effective.”((1))
All quotations in this posting are from pp. 1-24. Here is an early example of how the style, and many of the examples, in The Effective Executive are quite dated. The pronoun “she” never appears in the book. When he wrote the book in 1967, women in management were extraordinarily rare and their was only a nascent awareness that women could and should play a full role in our economic and social institutions [↩]
Learning how to be an effective manager is a primary task for every manager. However, most managers learn management skills on the job without guidance and in a haphazard fashion. A few companies have formal mentoring programs but, of these, few have a structured approach. Very few courses are offered in business schools on how to be an effective manager. To the extent that a manager becomes an effective manager, it is learned by stumbling about and reinventing the wheel.
Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive: the definitive guide to getting the right things done((1)) has been a continuing resource for me in learning how to be an effective manager and teaching others these management skills . I find myself re-reading it in parts and all of it every year. To spread the wisdom around and reflect further on this guide for the general manager((2)) I will devote a series of postings here to its content on how to be an effective manager. Continue reading →
I am using the 2006 edition published by Harper Collins. I will also refer to The Effective Executive in Action by Drucker and J. A. Maciariello published by Harper Collins, 2006 [↩]
I use the word “manager” throughout in place of “executive” because I believe that Drucker’s ideas scale up and down the management hierarchy very well. These are lessons for everyone one from front line supervisor to CEO [↩]