Drucker on Concentration, Performance, Results – The Effective Executive – 6

“It is more productive to convert an opportunity into results than to solve a problem – which only restores the equilibrium of yesterday.”

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:

Effective managers:

  1. “….know where their time goes.” 
  2. “….focus on outward contribution”
  3. “….build on strengths….” 
  4. “….concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.”
  5. “…. make effective decisions.”

Peter Drucker's The Effective Executive

This posting is devoted to the fourth practice, concentrate where it counts.((1)) 

If there is any one “secret” of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time.((2)) Continue reading

  1. All quotes in this posting come from pages 100-112 in Peter Drucker The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done. Revised. Collins Business, 2006. []
  2. Note that decades before the controversies over so-called “multi-tasking” Drucker notes the singular importance that people can only effectively do one task at a time. I have written about this earlier in “Multitasking, Too Much Information, Interruptions, and High Performance”  []

Planes Change. Values Don’t – No Sloganeering

Plane change. Values don't United Airlines

Recently I was on an commercial air flight and was greeted by a bit of corporate sloganeering that accompanied by meal (yes, you guessed correctly that I was on an international flight). The napkin shouted out in bold blue text, “Planes change. Values don’t. Your priorities will always be ours.Continue reading

ASAP Means “Never”

A Truly Terrible, Over Used Acronym – An Indicator of a Sloppy Culture

ASAP – “as soon as possible”, this acronym has been in use for over 50 years. Its use is ubiquitous.

ASAP is all too frequently slapped on to every memo or email where a dues date is to be found. How does this help to prioritize work? What does it say about the person making the request? Will sometime tomorrow be just as good? Maybe next week sometime? Perhaps the requestor does not really know when they need it. When does the person requesting really need it? Is this a symptom of out of control work processes?   Continue reading

Old Technology Displaces New Technology

In a recent coaching session, a long-time client expressed frustrations at keeping track of all of his day-to-day tasks, especially the little items of following through with people he had met. He felt that lots of useful new and old contacts were languishing because he had not followed up on items brought up during a discussion or emails. They are falling through the cracks.

So, I asked him, “How do you keep track of your daily work?” “Well, I still have a Palm Pilot in working order. I enter stuff there.” Clearly this was not working. We kicked around different ways of keeping a task list up to date. Then, I recalled how I solved this same problem for over twenty years. I kept notebooks that I carried around with me and entered notes and tasks chronologically page after page.  Knowing that my client was old enough to predate PDAs and other such devices, I asked him whether he had ever used notebooks.Notebook technology for task/priority lists “Of course. I kept everything in notebooks. Each was carefully dated and then filed away when every task in it had been completed.” I shared my memories of using notebooks. Even odd moments when a co-worker would come to me to ask what i recalled of a meeting that had taken place months earlier and I dragged out my notebook form that period and found the pages with my notes of the meeting.

My client agreed to try out a notebook as a way of attacking his current problem. There is something very satisfying about putting an arrow in the left column indicating a task or date to be reserved and then, later,putting big check mark next to it with a date when a task is accomplished.

Shortly after wards, it came to me that I was not doing all that well my task list technology (Google Tasks in the calendar), so I have returned to this device that served me so well for so long.