The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

by Peter F. Drucker

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Overview

What makes an effective executive?

The measure of the executive, Peter F. Drucker reminds us, is the ability to "get the right things done." This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results.

Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned:
  • Managing time
  • Choosing what to contribute to the organization
  • Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect
  • Setting the right priorities
  • Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making

Ranging widely through the annals of business and government, Peter F. Drucker demonstrates the distinctive skill of the executive and offers fresh insights into old and seemingly obvious business situations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060833459
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/03/2006
Series: HarperBusiness Essentials Series
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 50,766
Product dimensions: 5.28(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.52(d)

About the Author

Peter F. Drucker is considered the most influential management thinker ever. The author of more than twenty-five books, his ideas have had an enormous impact on shaping the modern corporation. Drucker passed away in 2005.

Read an Excerpt

Effectiveness Can Be Learned

To be, effective is the job of the executive. "To effect" and "to execute" are, after all, near-synonyms. Whether he works in a business or in a hospital, in a government agency or in a labor union, in a university or in the army, the executive is, first of all, expected to get the right things done. And this is simply that he is expected to be effective.

Yet men of high effectiveness are conspicuous by their absence in executive jobs. High intelligence is common enough among executives. Imagination is far from rare. The level of knowledge tends to be high. But there seems to be little correlation between a man's effectiveness and his intelligence, his imagination or his knowledge. Brilliant men are often strikingly ineffectual; they fail to realize that the brilliant insight is not by itself achievement. They never have learned that insights become effectiveness only through hard systematic work. Conversely, in every organization there are some highly effective plodders. While others rush around in the frenzy and busyness which very bright people so often confuse with "creativity," the plodder puts one foot in front of the other and gets there like the tortoise in the old fable.

Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results. By themselves, they only set limits to what can be attained.

WHY WE NEED EFFECTIVE EXECUTIVES
All this should be obvious. But why then has so little attention been paid to effectiveness, in an age in which there are mountains of books and articles on every other aspect of the executive's tasks?

One reason for this neglect is thateffectiveness is the specific technology of the knowledge worker within an organization. Until recently, there was no more than a handful of these around.

For manual work, we need only efficiency; that is, the ability to do things right rather than the ability to get the right things done. The manual worker can always be judged in terms of the quantity and quality of a definable and discrete output, such as a pair of shoes. We have learned how to measure efficiency and how to define quality in manual work during the last hundred years-to the point where we have been able to multiply the output of the individual worker tremendously.

Formerly, the manual worker-whether machine operator or front-line soldier-predominated in an organizations. Few people of effectiveness were needed: those at the top who gave the orders that others carried out. They were so small a fraction of the total work population that we could, rightly or wrongly, take their effectiveness for granted. We could depend on the supply of "naturals," the few people in any area of human endeavor who somehow know what the rest of us have to learn the hard way.

This was true not only of business and the army. It is hard to realize today that "government" during the American Civil War a hundred years ago meant the merest handful of people. Lincoln's Secretary of War had fewer than fifty civilian subordinates, most of them not "executives' and policy-makers but telegraph clerks. The entire Washington establishment of the U.S. government in Theodore Roosevelt's time, around 1900, could be comfortably housed in any one of the government buildings along the Mall today.

The hospital of yesterday did not know any of the "health-service professionals," the X-ray and lab technicians, the dieticians and therapists, the social workers, and so on, of whom it now employs as many as two hundred and fifty for every one hundred patients. Apart from a few nurses, there were only cleaning women, cooks and maids. The physician was the knowledge worker, with the nurse as his aide.

In other words, up to recent times, the major problem o organization was efficiency in the performance of the manual worker who did what he had been told to do. Knowledge workers were not predominant in organization.

In fact, only a small fraction of the knowledge workers of earlier days were part of an organization. Most of them worked by themselves as professionals, at best with a clerk. Their effectiveness or lack of effectiveness concerned only themselves and affected only themselves.

Today, however, the large knowledge organization is the central reality. Modem society is a society of large organized institutions. In every one of them, including the armed services, the center of gravity has shifted to the knowledge worker, the man who puts to work what he has between his ears rather than the brawn of his muscles or the skill of his hands. Increasingly, the majority of people who have been schooled to use knowledge, theory, and concept rather than physical force or manual skill work in an organization and are effective insofar as they can make a contribution to the organization.

Now effectiveness can no longer be taken for granted. Now it can no longer be neglected.

Table of Contents

1. Effectiveness Can Be Learned
2. Know Thy Time
3. What Can I Contribute?
4. Making Strength Productive
5. First Things First
6. The Elements of Decision-making
7. Effective Decisions
Conclusion: Effectiveness Must Be Learned
Index

Reading Group Guide

"An intelligent, authoritative, and original guide." --Washington Post
The measure of the executive is the ability to "get the right things done." In this book, Peter Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned: time management, choosing what to contribute to a particular organization, knowing where and how to mobilize strength for the best effect, setting up the right priorities, and knitting all of these together with effective decision making. Drucker ranges widely through the annals of business and government to demonstrate the distinctive skill of the executive…and inspire workers at every level to put these principles into practice.

Questions for Discussion

  • "Management books usually deal with managing other people. The subject of this book is managing oneself for effectiveness." Does Peter Drucker successfully support this theory throughout the book? What were your perceptions of management prior to reading The Effective Executive? Has your opinion changed in any way?

  • Drucker states, "I have not come across a single 'natural': an executive who was born effective." He then goes on to say that "there seems to be little correlation between a man's effectiveness and his intelligence, his imagination or his knowledge." In your opinion, are effective executives always "made," as Drucker suggests? Do you think there are qualities inherent in certain people that make them more effective executives than others?

  • Discuss the five principles Drucker outlines as essential for effectiveness. Which one did you find the most surprising? Did youdisagree with any of the principles?

  • "Most books on decision-making tell the reader: 'First find the facts.' But executives who make effective decisions know that one does not start with facts. One starts with opinions." Do you agree with this statement? How does Drucker support his position on this?

  • Drucker maintains that this book can be used by workers at every level, not just CEOs and other high-ranking executives. Do you agree? What makes Drucker's advice universal? About the Author: Peter F. Drucker's management books and analyses of economics and society are widely read and respected throughout the world and have been translated into more than twenty languages. He has been a frequent contributor to various magazines and journals over the years and was an editorial columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Since 1971, he has been Clark University Professor of Social Science at Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Claremont, California.

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    Effective Executive 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
    red.yardbird on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Classic. Pull this out and re-read parts regularly
    shadowofthewind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is a great book on how to be efficient with your time. Even though this was originally written in the 1960s, this book is just as relevant today. (Well, except the part of how the computer will disrupt the office, that's a little dated.) I really enjoyed some of the anecdotal stories from executives who had to be ruthlessly efficient with their time. (Meetings can't go past 1.5 hours, otherwise, I stop paying attention.) A good read for managers and executives trying to be more efficient with their time.
    poolera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    One of the best management books I have ever read.
    rwk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    A solid, comprehensive and well written overview of what the management function - executed with precision and clarity looks like. It appears to be repackaged from some of his other books/writings and, frankly, feels a tad stale - that may have more to do with his style than substance, though. It's all vintage Drucker, however, and no-one at or above a manager's position should be without a copy.
    BrianDewey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Yes, this is a business book, but one of the rare good business books that I can see myself re-reading periodically into the future. Most business books are such fluff, with so little content, that I feel sorry for all the trees that sacrificed themselves to make what is essentially blank paper. The Effective Executive, on the other hand, is pretty dense. The book is short (174 pages, plus an index). And while many of the points it makes are obvious, they're the types of obvious points that people still miss. At the current stage of my career, there are three points this book made that I'm going to pay close attention to. The first is to continue to manage my time carefully. The second is to focus on the right results I should be achieving: this is something I haven't done enough of. I've been caught in fire-fighting mode. Finally, I'm going to pay more attention to my decision-making. Drucker makes an interesting point, one that I don't have enough experience to agree or disagree with yet. He argues that an effective executive doesn't make many decisions, and he doesn't make them quickly. Instead, he makes a few important decisions. One thing I haven't been asking myself: Am I making the important decisions?
    Linda Strauseburg More than 1 year ago
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    NathanIves More than 1 year ago
    The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker focuses on self-management rather than on the management of others. The book addresses how an individual can become more effective in key activities such as time management, activity prioritization, and decision-making to the furtherance of their organization's goals. I believe that an organization's actions are defined by its people and not the buildings, machines, and tools they use - organizations themselves fundamentally behave like people. Subsequently, as individuals become more effective, such that their decisions and activities are increasingly focused on mission achievement, the organization itself is more likely to achieve greater levels of success. Because the principles contained within The Effective Executive focus on strong leadership, when they are built into processes and procedures, additional measurable improvements in organizational effectiveness can be achieved. The Effective Executive clearly and concisely conveys many powerful leadership concepts. Many of the best practice recommendations found on the StrategyDriven website relate to The Effective Executive; making it a StrategyDriven recommended read. All the Best, Nathan Ives StrategyDriven Principal Contributor and Host of the StrategyDriven Podcast
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book belongs on the shelf of anyone that calls or hopes to call themselves a professional. The points are relevant, clear and compelling. Every executive must manage their time, work on the right things, make effective decisions and read this book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
    As an author and an intellectual, the late Peter F. Drucker was a true business sage. Recognized as the father of modern management, Drucker forecast numerous pivotal trends, including decentralization, privatization and the development of the information society. He introduced the concept of the "knowledge worker," a term he employs widely in this fascinating book. His internal study of General Motors, Concept of the Corporation, greatly influenced how businesses conduct their affairs. Each Drucker book is a genuine business classic, including this one. getAbstract believes it will help you think productively about what you do. No one writes more intelligently or presciently on management and its functions than Drucker. All executives, even those who are already effective, will benefit from reading this informative, enlightening book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Revolutionary when written, The Effective Executive provides the fund of ideas on which most subsequent management works draw. To fully understand today's cutting edge business concepts, you must, absolutely must, first understand Drucker and read his original writings. The Effective Exectuive caused many in the business and academic worlds to scratch their heads asking 'Why didn't I think of that?' The answer: they had focused on many of the trees in the forest about which Drucker wrote ('first things first' and 'know thy time' and 'effective decisions'), but they had not stepped back far enough to see the whole landscape and appreciate how the individual trees fit together. After reading The Effective Executive you will want to read challenging new works such as 'Why Didn't I Think of That? - Think the Unthinkable and Achieve Creative Greatness' where the author takes you to the highest levels of current creative managerial thought so that you, unlike your predecessors in the pre-Drucker days, will not end up having to ask yourself 'Why didn't I think of that?'
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Have you ever run into executives who create more harm than good? Do you realize that some people may see you that way, at least in some situations. One of the most famous quotes by Peter Drucker is that he sometimes refers to himself as an 'insultant' rather than a consultant. His straight talk in this book will direct you onto the right path for helping your organization accomplish more. Peter Drucker begins this book by pointing out that there is no science of how to improve executive effectiveness, nor any naturally-occurring effective executives. The redeeming point of this problem is that he argues that executive effectiveness can be learned. The principles begin with a focus on time management. We can get greater quantities of every other resource we need, except time. Drucker reports that executives spend their time much differently than they think they do and much differently than they would like to. His solution is to begin by measuring how you spend your time, and compare it with an ideal allocation. Than begin to systematically get rid of the unimportant in favor of the important. His suggestions include stopping some things, delegation, creating policy decisions to replace ad hoc decisions, staying out of things that others should do, and so forth. Any student of time management will recognize the list he suggests. One of the best points is to give yourself large blocks of uninterrupted time to do more significant tasks. He also cautions us not to cut down on time spent with other people. If an hour is required, don't try to do it in 15 minutes. Next, Drucker argues that we should focus on what will make a difference rather than unimportant questions. Otherwise, we will fill our time with motion rather than proceeding towards results. Beyond that, he points out that we have to build on our own strengths and those of the people in our organization. That is how we can outperform the competition and accomplish much more. We also need to be systems thinkers, getting to the core of the issue first. If you would like to know more about that subject, look at The Fifth Discipline. For example, if you are weak on new products, you need to work on the new product development process before fine-tuning your marketing. If you reverse the order of these activities, your results will be far less. Perhaps the best section in the book has to do with executive decision-making, when to make a decision, about what, and what principles to apply. If you only read this section, you would be well rewarded for studying this fine book. I especially liked the familiar Drucker use of important historical examples to make his points. You'll remember the principles better because the examples are so vivid. Although this book was written some time ago, it retains the strength of its insight today. Truly , this is a timeless way to achieve greater effectiveness. You may be concerned about how you are going to learn to apply these concepts. That is actually quite easy. Drucker provides questions in each section that will guide you, step-by-step, to focus your attention on the most promising areas. If you only read one book about how to improve your personal effectiveness as an executive, you will find this to be a rewarding choice. If you liked what Peter Drucker had to say in this book, you may want to read his latest book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, to get your agenda for using the skills you developed from The Effective Executive. Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution