In most settings we avoid saying “No” to a request or suggestion in both business and personal domains. In US culture there is a moderate avoidance of saying “No” compared to a culture like Japan where saying “No” is seriously avoided. Here “Yes” is used widely in conversations as an interjection to keep things moving, to encourage further exchange of information, to forestall making a decision. All of this because “No” is inherently negative and indication that the subject or issue is closed.
The Human Body’s End of Life Process
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.
Are you persuaded that your business needs An End Of Life Policy? Continue reading
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. ((All quotes in this posting come from pages 71-99 in Peter Drucker The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done. Revised. Collins Business, 2006.))
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. ((Note again the dated language from 45 years ago))
Enable Strengths and Make Weaknesses Inconsequential Continue reading
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….” ((all quotes are from Chapter Two – Know Thy Time in Drucker’s The Effective Executive)) 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, ((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.)) 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.
Reducing Time Wasters Continue reading
- 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.” ((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 ))
What is effectiveness? Continue reading
Peter 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.”