God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.((1))
This prayer written in the 1930’s by Reinhold Neibuhr is now widely known in large part because it is a staple of the drug addiction recovery world. It is widely referred to as the Serenity Prayer though Neibuhr did not give it a title.((2))Continue reading →
Major Works on Religion and Politics by Reinhold Neibuhr, edited by Elizabeth Sifton, Library of America [↩]
Thanks for inspiration for what follows to Adam Kirsch’s article “The Ironic Wisdom of Reinhold Neibuhr in the 8/13/15 edition of New York Review of Books, pp. 74-75. [↩]
On June 19, 2012 the New York Times published an article, “The Body’s Protein Cleaning Machine” about the Nobel Prize winning chemist Dr. Avram Hershko. His life work has been on understanding how the body’s cells rid themselves of old, defective proteins. Every cell has a protein ubiquitin that tags old and degenerated proteins for destruction. “Maybe you’ve heard of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s? There we have bad proteins accumulating in the brain and destroying brain cells. The reason we don’t get Alzheimer’s when we are 10 is that when we are young, the bad proteins are disposed of quickly. With age, the cell’s machinery may lose the ability to do that.”
This very interesting notion that the body has a built-in mechanism to rid itself of bad proteins reminded me of old lessons about the need for our businesses to have a similar mechanism. Product obsolescence is a terrible drag on sales and gross margins. A better strategy is to have an end of life process to drive out product obsolescence. Peter Drucker ((Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive, Harper Colophon Books, p.108)) put it this way:
Systematic sloughing off of the old is the one and only way to force the new. There is no lack of ideas in any organization I know. “Creativity” is not our problem. But few organizations ever get going on their own good ideas. Everybody is much too busy on the tasks of yesterday. Putting all programs and activities regularly on trial for their lives and getting rid of those that cannot prove their productivity work wonders in stimulating creativity even in the most hidebound bureaucracy.
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. [↩]