The Effective Executive


Peter F. Drucker

My rating:
June, 2020


Although it shows its age - with executives only ever being referred to as men, and dated references to the industries of old (and all the old men that ran them...) - it contains some of the best writing on personal productivity, time management and decision making I've yet come across. Everything else now feels derivative, in retrospect. Unfortunately, it can also be incredibly dry and staid in places and became an uphill push to finish for this reason.

My Notes


1. Effectiveness Can Be Learned

  1. Know where your time goes, and what it goes towards
  2. Focus on outward contribution - prioritise the results, not the work
  3. Build on strengths, do not try to shore up weaknesses
  4. Prioritise areas that will produce the best results
  5. Make effective decisions - few, but fundamental

2. Know Your Time

  1. What can I just completely stop doing?
  2. Can I get someone else to do this? (This is NOT delegation - rather, what more could others be doing in their jobs? Someone who is better at this particular task than I am?)
  3. Can I stop wasting the time of others? (Calling long meetings, asking for updates, etc...)
  4. Am I using, sending out, or gathering the wrong information?

3. What Can I Contribute?

4. Making Strength Productive

  1. Guard against 'the impossible job' - make sure it is will designed.
  2. Make jobs demanding and big. Give challenge with a wide scope.
  3. Start with what a recruit can do - not what the job requires.
  4. Put up with weakness. We have staffed for strength.

5. First Things First

  1. Future > Past
  2. Opportunity > Problem
  3. Our direction > Bandwagon
  4. Ambition > Safety

6. Elements of Effective Decision Making

  1. Knowing that something is a generic problem, not an exception
  2. 'Boundary conditions' known and understood
  3. Understanding what the right answer is first, rather than what all the possible adaptions that are required
  4. Building the action into the decision
  5. Knowing where the feedback is coming from

7. Effective Decisions

  1. The benefits outweigh the risk/cost
  2. We are committed to action. Do not hedge.

One Interesting Thing...

If you're the kind of person with a curious mind, you'll probably be interested in my weekly newsletter, One Interesting Thing. I promise it'll be the most interesting short email you'll read all week.