Management Skills for the Effective Manager – Drucker’s The Effective Executive – 1

Peter Drucker's The Effective Executive

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  (( 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)) 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 ((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)) I will devote a series of postings here to its content on how to be an effective manager. Continue reading

Your Business Plan, Business Goals, & Tactics – Where Are Yours?

For most business plans the document is the end itself. It is such a commonplace of my practice to ask a business owner, or manager, “Do you have a business plan?”, only to have them look around in a bookcase, or in a pile of papers in the corner, in response.

A good business plan is the result of a process in which the management team comes to a common understanding of:

  • the business situation
  • the value the business provides to customers
  • strategies to achieve new business goals
  • obstacles to be overcome or avoided along the way,
  • tactics to bring the business goals to life – this includes who is responsible, resources assigned, timeline of tasks, and results expected
  • schedule of review meetings to measure results and take corrective actions

The plan also provides a common language about the business and a platform to communicate  business goals and values to everyone involved, employees, vendors, and customers.

So here we are at the key question:

If your business plan authentically identifies the business goals of your company, how can you put your management team into action to achieve that future as opposed to the future that will come willy-nilly and that almost inevitably is not the one you desire?

As Peter Drucker said about planning, “a plan is only deployed to the extent that it has devolved to day-to-day work” ((paraphrase from Drucker’s The Effective Executive: a definitive guide to getting the right things done (Harper Collins: New York, 2006) ))

Making a  Business Plan Become Day-to-Day Work

This is where you the Owner, the CEO must take the lead. Otherwise the plan is just a plan and is not converted into action. If you have done a good job of establishing the tactics, the step by step actions required, you will know:

  1. who is responsible
  2. resources assigned
  3. desired results
  4. success metrics
  5. timetable for action
These five items characterize every tactical action. Good project management practices demand them. Without these five elements, the tactics are just a plan, a bit of wishful thinking, they are not in fact in action. You cannot achieve your business goals without taking these practical steps.

By tying your business plan to your existing financial reporting system and project management tools, you will be able to measure results directly. The review sessions are not designed to be dull reports, but opportunities to understand where the difficulties lie and where new opportunities pop up. A review session brings together the management team to work on the most important strategic activities of the firm.

Let’s wrap up.  

Your business plan is converted into action through the tactics identified in the plan. These are supported by active supervision and follow up by the Owner, the CEO. Only you can provide the impetus to sustain the management team over the long haul. Without your involvement the management team will fall back to day-to-day busyness and not spend the time required to drive the tactics to reach your business goals.

Peter Drucker’s Little Red Book for the General Manager

Peter Drucker's The Effective ExecutivePeter Drucker’s The Effective Executive was first published in 1967 and has been in print ever since. I first read it during the 1980s. When I began to coach general managers and owners of small businesses I re-read it with a fresh perspective.

The Effective Executive continues to be a book that I return to for its little pearls of wisdom. Once you get over the now obscure examples from WWII and the 1950s and its dated language (e.g., the pronoun “she” never appears), it remains  a most useful and continuously provocative statement of the tasks of the general manager.

Here are a few quotes for illustration.

  • “In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problems.”
  • “…the more an executive works at making strengths productive, the more he will become conscious of the need to concentrate human strengths available to him on major opportunities. This is the only way to get results.”
  • “No one has much difficulty getting rid of the total failures. They liquidate themselves. Yesterday’s successes, however, always linger on long beyond their productive life. Even more dangerous are the activities which should do well and which, for some reason or other, do not produce. These tend to become… “investments in managerial ego” and sacred.”
  • “Systematic sloughing off of the old is the one and only way to force the new.”
  • “…no decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone’s work assignment and responsibility. Until then, there are only good intentions.”
Find this little book (183 pages long), read it. You will be enriched.