The Effective Executive Book Summary

  • An organization is like the body, requiring a central nervous system, organs to function etc.
  • All organizations must maintain contact with its environment (customers, market, etc) and not become subsumed by itself.
  • Leverage individual strengths rather than trying to increase the number of strengths per individual.
  • If you can't increase the supply of a resource, then you have to increase its yield.

5 Habits of Effectiveness:

1. Time management

  • Eliminate crises
  • Don't over staff
  • Avoid excess meetings / mal organization
  • Do not allow malinformation

2. Gear efforts towards results/ contribution rather than work for work's sake. Contribution has 4 requirements

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Self development
  • Development of others

3. Build on strengths rather than weaknesses

  • Staff from strength, rather than lack of weakness
  • Jobs must be objective, determined by task rather than personality (don't uproot and push around a dozen people just to accommodate one)
  • Redesign jobs that are impossible because they were tailored around an individual rather than objectives
  • Make each job demanding and big to truly leverage the strength of the individual, as targets change the big job still requires the strength
  • Make ongoing appraisals of individuals so their strengths are known far before the need arises to staff for it.
  • What has s/he done well?
  • What therefore is s/he likely to be able to do well?
  • What does s/he have to learn to be able to get the full benefit from his/her strength?
  • Would I be willing to have my son or daughter work under this person? Why or why not?
  • To get strength, you have to put up with weaknesses
  • Ruthlessly remove anyone who consistently fails to perform regardless of having a replacement (that's a different problem)
  • Staff for the job, no matter how "indispensable" a person may be in a position
  • Make the strengths of your boss effective
  • Make yourself effective
  • Use your temperaments as strengths
  • The standard of any group is set by the performance of the leaders

4. Set priorities based on 80-20 focus (first things first)

  • Focus on 1 thing at a time, because nothing will ever go 100% right and you need full attention to allow for deviations
  • Allow a steady pace, don't rush it
  • In order to do something, another needs to be completed or removed
  • Focus efforts on opportunities of the future rather than fixing problems of the past
  • Every program/process should be regularly reviewed. There is no such thing as an eternal process. Prune ruthlessly what is no longer relevant and providing value.
  • Put all activities regularly on trial to prove their productivity, otherwise cut them
  • Start new things with people of tested and proven strength, not by hiring in from outside.
  • Don't let pressures make decisions, you make decisions
  • No task is completed until it has become embedded into organizational behavior / habit
  • It is easy to set priorities, but difficult to deprioritize
  • Pick the future rather than the past
  • Focus on opportunity over problem
  • Choose your own direction rather than climb on the bandwagon
  • Aim high, something that will make a difference rather than something that is safe to do
  • It is just as risky/arduous to do something small as it is to do something big.
  • It is more productive to convert opportunity to results than solve a problem, which only restores equilibrium of yesterday
  • Focus on 1 priority at a time, then reassess and choose the next prio 1

5. Make few fundamental decisions w big impact

  • Is this a generic situation or an exception. If an exception, is it actually the first manifestation of a new generic problem?
  • Generic problems require a rule, a policy, a principle.
  • Seek out the underlying problem to superficial events.
  • Second, is clear specifications of what the decision has to accomplish - what conditions must  it satisfy? What minimum goals does it have to attain? These are called boundary conditions.
  • Concise and clear boundary conditions are required.
  • Third, start out with what is right , rather than what is acceptable. Compromised will always be needed, so make the right one.
  • Then convert the decision into action: who has to know? What actions are needed? Who does it? What does each action have to be so the assignees are capable of doing it?
  • Reward the desired action/outcome , not something different.
  • Feedback must be built into the decision . And direct feedback from exposure to reality is necessary, rather than reports and figures.

Effective decisions

  • Before making a decision, there are no facts, but opinions.
  • Differing opinions should be considered (and the tests needed to qualify them).
  • Identify the correct measurement by finding the correct feedback loops.
  • Insist on alternatives of measurement, in order to choose the most appropriate one. A decision is a judgment among alternatives, not a yes or no.
  • Create dissension and disagreement among opinions, not consensus. Only this will create alternatives, and protect against the plausible but incomplete.
  • Do not start a decision with "this is right and that is wrong", instead commit to find out why people disagree. Understand why first.
  • Is a decision necessary? One alternative is to do nothing. A decision carries side effects. Act or do not act, but do not compromise to "hedge", do not make a half-decision.
  • Make sure to sleep on decisions to consider any inner voice of reason / concern, but then commit and act swiftly. Do not let it linger, even if it's a difficult or distasteful decision. It must be done.
  • Finally, everyone in the organization should learn how to make decisions.

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