How to Get the Right Things Done

Peter F. Drucker was the inventor of "management by objectives" and has been described as the founder of modern management. He wrote some management books that I considered as must-read classics for all managers who want to get the right things done.

This blog post is my summary from "The Effective Executive", which was originally published in 1966, but still relevant to date.

To be effective is the job of the executive.

The executive is expected to get the right things done. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.

Photo by Brooke Lark

There are five practices that have to be acquired to be an effective executive:

#1 - Manage Your Time

Know where your time goes.

Do work systematically at managing the little of your time that can be brought under your control.

Start with finding out where your time actually goes.

Cut back unproductive demands on your time. Consolidate your discretionary time into the largest possible continuing units. Time is the limiting factor. The output limits of any process are set by the scarcest resource.

Identify and eliminate the things that need not be done at all.

Those are usually caused by lack of system (recurrent crisis), overstaffing, malorganization (excess of meetings), or malfunctioning information. Delegate activities that could be done by somebody else just as well, if not better. Eliminate the things that waste other people's time.

Control your time management perpetually.

Not only keep a continuing log and analyze it periodically, you should also set deadlines for the important activities, based on your judgment of your discretionary time.

#2 - Focus on Contribution

Gear your efforts to results rather than to work.

Start out with the question, “What results are expected of me?” rather than with the work to be done, let alone with its techniques and tools.

Develop good human relations.

The focus on contribution by itself supplies the four basic requirements of effective human relations: communications, teamwork, self-development, and development of others.

Know what you expect to get out of a meeting, a report, or a presentation and what the purpose of the occasion should be.

Ask yourself: “Why are you having this meeting? Do you want a decision, do you want to inform, or do you want to make clear to ourselves what you should be doing?” Insist that the purpose be thought through and spelled out before a meeting is called, a report asked for, or a presentation organized. Make sure the meeting serve the contribution.

#3 - Build on Strengths

Do not start out with the things you cannot do.

Build on your own strengths, the strengths of your superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; and on the strengths in the situation, that is, on what you can do.

Staff for strength and avoid structuring jobs to fit personality.

Make sure that the jobs on your team are well-designed, so common people can achieve uncommon performance. Create each job demanding and big. Start with what a man can do rather than with what a job requires. Focus on opportunity in your staffing – not on problems.

Lead from strength in your own work.

Make productive what you can do. Do not complain about your inability to do anything, just go ahead and do. As a result, the limitations that weigh so heavily on your brethren often melt away.

#4 - First Things First

Do first things first and do one thing at a time.

Concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. Force yourself to set priorities and stay with your priority decisions.

Slough off the past that has ceased to be productive.

Make sure that no more resources are being invested in the no-longer-productive past, and those first-class resources are immediately pulled out and put to work on the opportunities of tomorrow. It is more productive to convert an opportunity into results than to solve a problem—which only restores the equilibrium of yesterday.

#5 - Make Effective Decisions

What is needed is the right strategy rather than razzle-dazzle tactics.

Effective decision is always a judgment based on “dissenting opinions” rather than on “consensus on the facts.” What is needed are few, but fundamental, decisions.

Always initially assume that the problem is generic and can only be solved with a rule, a principle.

Have a clear thinking about the specification of decision outcome. Start with what is right before what is acceptable. Convert the decision into actions. Get feedbacks to test the validity and effectiveness of the decision.

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