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The Effective Executive in Action - Book Review

1 June 2010

Dr. Moria Levy

This book, "The Effective Executive in Action," represents Peter Drucker's final work before passing away. He penned the introduction in the fall of 2005; by November of that year, he had already departed. Co-authored by Drucker and Joseph Marciariello, this practical guide actively processes the "what" and "how," drawing from Drucker's earlier content in his 1966 book, "The Effective Executive." Additionally, it integrates excerpts from Drucker's later works and notable passages from books by Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of GE, and Collins-Metuv's well-known work.


The book explores essential components for every manager to be effective: trainable and strengthenable skills. Therefore, each manager can enhance their performance by being aware and diligently working on each skill separately.


The book delves into the following topics:

  • Effective time management

  • Donor focus

  • Productivity with robust leverage

  • Concentrating efforts on influential contributions

  • Making informed decisions


Written in an easily digestible format, the book is edited as a journal where personal notes can be incorporated. It is recommended for any manager, extending its relevance beyond managerial roles. Enjoy your reading!


Effective time management

What level of effectiveness do we aim for? Let's understand how to prioritize the right actions.


Why is this not a trivial pursuit?

  • Today, the authority of knowledge holds as much weight as the authority of status.

  • Some factors are beyond the manager's control:

    - Their time often belongs to others.

    - The manager is continually tasked with "running the organization."

    - Effectiveness is contingent on others doing the same.

    - The manager primarily resides within the organization, with limited or no exposure to the external environment.


Managerial time is a precious resource, not in monetary terms, but as an invaluable asset. It often emerges as the "weak" link in the chain, acting as a bottleneck compared to other resources.


To effectively manage time, consider the following three steps:

  1. Document your activities comprehensively.

  2. Analyze the optimal utilization of time by:

    a. Identifying and minimizing time-consuming activities that are not essential.

    b. Delegating tasks performed for other employees.

    c. Assessing activities that consume others' time without contributing to their goals.

    d. Evaluating whether there is an excess commitment to actions known for their time-consuming nature.

    e. Scrutinizing the organizational dynamics – are there excessive, unproductive meetings and discussions?

    f. Investigating potential failures or defects in information transfer within the organization leads to additional time investments for you and your employees.

  3. Restructure your activity plan accordingly.


Donor focus

Directing a manager's time towards activities contributing to the organization is no small feat. The implication is that each manager should prioritize tasks aligned with their unique strengths, focusing on what is correct and beneficial for the organization. A manager must adopt the perspective of the departments and employees under their purview, contemplating the contributions they can make to optimize overall organizational performance. Seeking input from others and actively listening to their opinions further enhances this process.


The concept of contribution takes varied forms for different individuals. To emphasize this, the authors suggest concentrating on three key elements:

  1. Results

  2. Values

  3. Employee development for the future


Expanding on these components:


1.Results:

Ask yourself:

  • What does the situation demand?

  • Given my abilities, strengths, actions, and values, how can I best contribute to the required performance?

  • What results need to be achieved to make a meaningful impact?


Encourage broad and innovative thinking; avoid limiting yourself and think outside conventional boundaries.


2.Values:

If appropriate values are absent, formulate them; if they exist, articulate and implement them visibly to employees, customers, and suppliers. Ensure that these values encompass elements that benefit the surrounding society.


3.Employee development for tomorrow:

Recognize that people adhere to the expectations placed upon them; act accordingly:

  • Share newly acquired knowledge with your employees.

  • Foster effective two-way internal communication.

  • Promote teamwork and ensure that staff possess a clear understanding of priorities.

  • Be open and provide employees with tools to develop themselves; communicate your expectations for their personal growth.


Productivity with robust leverage

Each of us has weaknesses; building on these weaknesses, whether for the manager, the employees, or one's manager, is counterproductive when aiming to maximize productivity.


Recommendations for leveraging employees:

  1. Team people to capitalize on their strengths rather than minimizing their weaknesses.

  2. Acknowledge that every individual possesses weaknesses; endeavor to overlook these unless they impede performance.

  3. Prioritize feedback. In instances where weaknesses hinder performance, targeted feedback can be sufficient to rectify the issue. For example, lack of politeness in an employee can be addressed through focused feedback, fostering awareness and improvement.

  4. Recognize that each person has more than one presumption. Instead of seeking a collection of abilities, focus on one exceptional and significant presumption upon which their team is built.

  5. Establish high expectations for each role, assigning substantial tasks. People will grow into these definitions.

  6. Render weaknesses irrelevant to the job. If necessary, modify the job title or adapt the role to the employee's personality.

  7. When selecting individuals for leadership roles, consult with those who have worked with them in the past.

  8. Ensure that employees understand the job definition and expectations.

  9. The manager must:

    a. Remember responsibility for any orders that fail.

    b. Remove from their position any employee failing to perform their duties properly.

    c. Recognize that job performance does not define the employee as a person; explore alternative positions within the organization before considering leaving.

    d. Strive to assign the best-suited individual to each position.

    e. Acknowledge that new employees perform better in existing positions when exceptions are recognized, and assistance is provided. Emphasize never compromising on good interpersonal relations and integrity while other skills can be developed.



Recommendations for leveraging managers:

  1. Compile a list of influential managers in the organization who can provide insights into performance, work, and suitability.

  2. Identify ways to support managers and their teams.

  3. Explore how managers can maximize their strengths and render their weaknesses irrelevant, even if these weaknesses are not explicitly discussed.

  4. Communicate effectively with managers, understanding the appropriate written or oral methods.

  5. Avoid surprising managers.


Recommendations for leveraging oneself (steps to leverage):

  1. Identify personal attachments.

  2. Understand your work style, including preferences for working alone or in a team, under pressure or calmly, and your learning style.

  3. Determine the most effective way to contribute as a manager, as outlined in the chapter on the contribution focus (results, values).

  4. Take responsibility not only for the work but also for labor relationships.


Concentrating efforts on influential contributions

Part of the key to success lies in focusing efforts in defined directions. To achieve this, the following recommendations are suggested:

  1. Concentration:

    a. Refrain from multitasking and tackle tasks one at a time. Given the limited time available, prioritize tasks and avoid jumping between them. Concentrate on what has been determined as crucial.

    b. Prioritization method recommendations:

    - Prioritize the future over the past.

    - Direct attention to opportunities rather than problems.

    - Choose a direction based on your managerial judgment rather than automatically following others.

    - Set ambitious goals and engage in endeavors that will significantly impact, avoiding the allure of manageable tasks.

  2. Knowing When to Abandon:

    a. Reevaluate each product, service, market, distribution channel, and customer regularly to determine whether to proceed. Abandonment is advisable in three cases:

    - When a product or service is still operational but clearly on a trajectory towards obsolescence.

    - When an asset is no longer yielding returns.

    - When continued investment or maintenance of an existing product or service impedes the growth of a new, necessary one.

  3. Beware of Delays and Postponements:

    a. Be cautious of delays and postponements, which often lead to unplanned abandonment.

  4. Beware of Distracting Factors:

    a. Recognize that the manager's work is most adversely affected by distractions.

  5. Tracking, Measuring, and Controlling Personal Performance:

    a. Develop the ability to monitor, measure, and control personal performance effectively.


Making informed decisions

Decision-making constitutes a pivotal function for every manager, requiring a disciplined process for effective outcomes. Beneficial decisions share common characteristics and involve several key stages:


Decision-making stages:

Preliminary Stage:

Understanding the necessity of a decision is critical. A decision is warranted when failure to act would lead to atrophy or deterioration of the situation or when an opportunity is at risk of being missed.


Steps in making the decision:

  1. Classification of the problem: Distinguish whether the issue is a general case requiring a decision or an exception. In the latter case, it may be prudent not to decide or to treat it as an exception.

  2. The true definition of the problem: Understand the root cause of the problem, avoiding decisions based solely on visible symptoms.

  3. Determining the characteristics of the decision: Understand the goals the decision must achieve to address the problem or challenge, being cautious of decisions that only partially resolve the issue.

  4. Deciding the right thing to do: Start with the right decision and then adapt it based on existing circumstances and constraints, often involving compromises.

  5. Building an action plan for implementation: Formulate operational actions resulting from the decision. Decide on individuals and timelines for task execution and assign responsibility for ensuring implementation. Ensure that everyone relevant is aware of the decision.

  6. Retrospective examination of the decision against the results: Assess whether the decision achieved its objectives based on feedback or additional measurements.


Recommendations for making the decision:

  1. Remember the reliance on opinions: Acknowledge that decisions are often based on opinions rather than facts; moderate expectations accordingly.

  2. Encourage disagreement and productive discussion: Foster an environment where disagreement and constructive discussions are welcomed. A manager with unanimous agreement from employees may need help making productive decisions.

  3. Consider the price of decisions: Be mindful that every decision comes with a cost. Only make decisions when the benefits outweigh the associated costs.


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