The Effective Executive

„The Effective Executive“ by Peter Drucker talks to managers and performers alike, shedding light on the true meaning of effectiveness.

Who is Peter Drucker?


            Peter Drucker bears the label of being the world’s foremost pioneer of management theory. Write, teacher, and consultant, Kruger specialized in strategy and policy for businesses and social sector organizations.

His groundbreaking work turned modern management theory into a serious discipline. He has influenced or created nearly every fact of its application, including decentralization, privatization, empowerment, and understanding of the “knowledge worker”.

Peter is the author of thirty-one books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages. Thirteen books deal with economics and politics: fifteen deal with management. Two of his books are novels, one is autobiographical, and he is the co-author of a book on Japanese painting.

Who is the executive?


            The executive is every knowledge worker in modern organizations. The quality of being effective is the result of his/her contribution that affects the capacity of the organization to perform and to obtain results.

            Most managers are executives, though not all of them. However, most non-managers are becoming more and more effective. For the knowledge organization, we need both managers and individual professional contributors in positions of responsibility, decision-making, and authority.

            An effective executive is, simply put, every individual within an organization, who contributes to the results of the organization through his/her knowledge.


What is the knowledge worker’s role?


The knowledge workers don’t produce a thing. They produce ideas, information concepts. His output is limited because he has to combine it with somebody else’s output before it can produce results.

The executive can be a knowledge worker to the degree to which he/she contributes to the progress of the organization.

An ideal organization would be one where both the managers and the executives are effective.

Being effective is not an inborn quality only bestowed on some lucky few. It’s a skill that can be learned and practiced in order to ensure proficiency.

These are the book’s two premises. The content describes in detail the way in which we can learn and increase our effectiveness, no matter the industry or type of organization.

What does being effective entail?

Peter Drucker describes in detail the steps we should take towards effectiveness.


It all starts with time management


Most effective people, whether they are managers or contributors, record where their time is spent. They go over their schedule, on a monthly basis, to see where exactly time is consumed without much visible result.

The point of reviewing one’s schedule is not for mere observation. The purpose is simple: to lay aside all the unnecessary activities that are not crucial for getting results. If you’re a manager, maybe you don’t have to honor all your dinner invitations.

Perhaps you don’t have to take personal calls with all your clients. Only the most important ones. How about delegating some of your duties to someone who can do it just as good or even better. If you’re a contributor, maybe not all those meetings are as crucial as you thought.

In one company, people would attend all meetings because they were afraid they were left behind, even though the discussion didn’t quite influence their work directly. The manager organizing the meeting made sure when he extended the invitation to mention the fact that presence wasn’t mandatory.

However, if you consider you need to be present, you are most welcomed. If not, the contents of the meeting will be presented to all those concerned.  


The next step is to focus your vision


We should focus our vision on contribution, from conceptual to procedural, from mechanics to analysis, and from efficiencies to concern with results.

Now it’s time to ask ourselves what our contribution to the organization is and what it should be. The answer to this question should lead us to high make demands on ourselves.

We should think about our own goals as those of the organization itself. As a result, we should strive for higher standards. These questions ask the executive to assume responsibility, rather than act the subordinate, satisfied if he only “pleased the boss”.


Making strengths productive

Making strengths productive is an attitude expressed in behavior. It’s the respect for the person – one own as well as other. It is a value system in action. But it is a process of learning through doing. It’s self-development through practice.

As Wallace Walters also points out in his “The science of getting rich”, our main focus should be on improving our strengths. Most people worry about the things they can’t do instead of concentrating on improving the things they can do.

In making strengths productive, the executive integrates individual:

  • purpose and organization needs
  • capacity and organization results
  • achievement and organization opportunity

First thing first


The secret to being effective is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time.

            There are always more important contributions to be made than there is time to make them.

            The more the executive focuses on upward contribution, the more will he require fairly big continuous chunks of his time. The more he switches from being busy to achieving results, the more he will shift to sustained efforts. Those efforts require a big quantum of time to bear fruit.

            When we think of our time and its uses, we should show the same respect towards somebody else’s time. We all have people who are masters at stealing our time because they don’t manage to organize theirs.

In return, we should respect the time of our effective executives. Maybe we should prepare in advance for a meeting. Maybe we should read in advance about the subject being discussed without wasting everybody’s time with repetitive questions.


The effective decision

            The effective decision is not only the final step but the result of practicing effectiveness.

            A decision is a judgment. It’s a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right and wrong, but, at best, a choice between almost right and probably wrong. The worst thing we can do is not make a decision at all for fear we might make the wrong one.

            One ingredient in the decision-making process is to consider alternatives. If we cannot do that, we are in danger of having a closed mind. And closed minds stay put.

            Another ingredient is disagreement. The best ideas come from having heard more than one perspective of the situation. If everybody agrees on the subject, we can never explore alternatives to a decision.

            If there is no disagreement, there is no stimulation to the imagination. Imagination, in this respect, is a new and different way of perceiving and understanding.

The future and the knowledge worker


            The knowledge worker is not an economic problem. He has high job security. His knowledge provides him the freedom to move.

But, his psychological needs and personal values need to be satisfied in and through his work as well as his position in the organization. He considers himself a professional. His organization views him the same way.

Yet, he is an employee, therefore under orders. He is beholden to a knowledge area. Nevertheless, he has to subordinate the authority of knowledge to organizational objectives.

            In a knowledge area, there are no superiors or subordinates. There are only younger and older men. Therefore, the knowledge worker is not a property. The effective executive works at making his knowledge area become an organizational opportunity. Thus, by focusing on contribution, he makes his own values become organizational values.

            “Only effective executives can enable this society to harmonize its two needs:

  • The needs of the organization to obtain from the individual the contribution it needs
  • The need of the individual to have organization serve as his tool for the accomplishment of his purpose.”

There is no other way but to learn effectiveness.

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