- Read: Tue Dec 29 00:00:00 -0800 2015
- Rating: 4 / 5
The Effective Executive is the book I wish I had when I first got a job. A lot of knowledge work is self structured and not handed top down per se. But nobody teaches you how to structure your work or what to work on. The first part of this books gives a definite structure on how to achieve this though the latter half somewhat dragged a bit.
Some key insights:
"The knowledge worker cannot be supervised closely or in detail. He can only be helped. But he must direct himself, and he must direct himself toward performance and contribution, that is, toward effectiveness."
"The fewer people, the smaller, the less activity inside, the more nearly perfect is the organization in terms of its only reason for existence: the service to the environment."
"An organization, a social artifact, is very different from a biological organism. Yet it stands under the law that governs the structure and size of animals and plants: The surface goes up with the square of the radius, but the mass grows with the cube. The larger the animal becomes, the more resources have to be devoted to the mass and to the internal tasks, to circulation and information, to the nervous system, and so on."
"An organization is not, like an animal, an end in itself, and successful by the mere act of perpetuating the species. An organization is an organ of society and fulfills itself by the contribution it makes to the outside environment. And yet the bigger and apparently more successful an organization gets to be, the more will inside events tend to engage the interests, the energies, and the abilities of the executive to the exclusion of his real tasks and his real effectiveness in the outside."
"One of the weaknesses of young, highly educated people today—whether in business, medicine, or government—is that they are satisfied to be versed in one narrow specialty and affect a contempt for the other areas. One need not know in detail what to do with “human relations” as an accountant, or how to promote a new branded product if an engineer. But one has a responsibility to know at least what these areas are about, why they are around, and what they are trying to do."
"Most discussions of the executive’s task start with the advice to plan one’s work. This sounds eminently plausible. The only thing wrong with it is that it rarely works. The plans always remain on paper, always remain good intentions. They seldom turn into achievement."
"Effective executives, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time."
"He asks: “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?” His stress is on responsibility."
"Executives who do not ask themselves, “What can I contribute?” are not only likely to aim too low, they are likely to aim at the wrong things. Above all, they may define their contribution too narrowly."
"For every organization needs performance in three major areas: It needs direct results; building of values and their reaffirmation; and building and developing people for tomorrow."
"We know very little about self-development. But we do know one thing: People in general, and knowledge workers in particular, grow according to the demands they make on themselves. They grow according to what they consider to be achievement and attainment. If they demand little of themselves, they will remain stunted. If they demand a good deal of themselves, they will grow to giant stature—without any more effort than is expended by the non achievers."
"The effective executive fills positions and promotes on the basis of what a man can do. He does not make staffing decisions to minimize weaknesses but to maximize strength."
"Every one of Lee’s generals, from Stonewall Jackson on, was a man of obvious and monumental weaknesses. But these failings Lee considered—rightly—to be irrelevant. Each of them had, however, one area of real strength—and it was this strength, and only this strength, that Lee utilized and made effective."
"The idea that there are “well-rounded” people, people who have only strengths and no weaknesses (whether the term used is the “whole man,” the “mature personality,” the “well-adjusted personality,” or the “generalist”) is a prescription for mediocrity if not for incompetence."
"Strong people always have strong weaknesses too. Where there are peaks, there are valleys."
"The effective executive, therefore, asks: “What can my boss do really well?” “What has he done really well?” “What does he need to know to use his strength?” “What does he need to get from me to perform?” He does not worry too much over what the boss cannot do."
"The people who get nothing done often work a great deal harder. In the first place, they underestimate the time for any one task. They always expect that everything will go right. Yet, as every executive knows, nothing ever goes right. The unexpected always happens—the unexpected is indeed the only thing one can confidently expect."
"Social organizations need to stay lean and muscular as much as biological organisms."