Awesome quotes from The Effective Executive

I recently finished reading The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker.  It’s a business classic that’s chock full of exceptional advice and insights.  It was originally published in 1966 and all of the lessons still apply.  Here are my highlights.  Enjoy. 

The Effective Executive (Harperbusiness Essentials) by Peter F. Drucker

“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.”

“The danger is that executives will become contemptuous of information and stimulus that cannot be reduced to computer logic and computer language. Executives may become blind to everything that is perception (i.e., event) rather than fact (i.e., after the event). The tremendous amount of computer information may thus shut out access to reality.” 

“Whether this theorem is valid or not, there is little doubt that the more people have to work together, the more time will be spent on “interacting” rather than on work and accomplishment.”

“Few executives make personnel decisions of such impact. But all effective executives I have had occasion to observe have learned that they have to give several hours of continuous and uninterrupted thought to decisions on people if they hope to come up with the right answer.”

“I have yet to see an executive, regardless of rank or station, who could not consign something like a quarter of the demands on his time to the wastepaper basket without anybody’s noticing their disappearance.”

“What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness?” To ask this question, and to ask it without being afraid of the truth, is a mark of the effective executive.”

“The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management.” He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.”

“If I had a son or daughter, would I be willing to have him or her work under this ?”      (i) “If yes, why?”      (ii) “If no, why?”

“They have learned that there are only three explanations for an “indispensable man”: He is actually incompetent and can only survive if carefully shielded from demands; his strength is misused to bolster a weak superior who cannot stand on his own two feet; or his strength is misused to delay tackling a serious problem if not to conceal its existence.”

“He always assumes that the event that clamors for his attention is in reality a symptom. He looks for the true problem. He is not content with doctoring the symptom alone.”

“One of the most obvious facts of social and political life is the longevity of the temporary. British licensing hours for taverns, for instance, French rent controls, or Washington “temporary” government buildings, all three hastily developed in World War I to last “a few months of temporary emergency” are still with us fifty years later. The effective decision-maker knows this. He too improvises, of course. But he asks himself every time, “If I had to live with this for a long time, would I be willing to?”

“A country with many laws is a country of incompetent lawyers,”

“All military services have long ago learned that the officer who has given an order goes out and sees for himself whether it has been carried out. At the least he sends one of his own aides—he never relies on what he is told by the subordinate to whom the order was given. Not that he distrusts the subordinate; he has learned from experience to distrust communications.”