These are essentially five such practices—five such habits of the mind that have to be acquired to be an effective executive:
1. Effective executives know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under their control.
2. Effective executives focus on outward contribution. They gear their efforts to results rather than to work. They 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.
3. Effective executives build on strengths—their own strengths, the strengths of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; and on the strengths in the situation, that is, on what they can do. They do not build on weakness. They do not start out with the things they cannot do.
4. Effective executives concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. They force themselves to set priorities and stay with their priority decisions. They know that they have no choice but to do first things first—and second things not at all. The alternative is to get nothing done.
5. Effective executives, finally, make effective decisions. They know that this is, above all, a matter of system—of the right steps in the right sequence. They know that an effective decision is always a judgment based on “dissenting opinions” rather than on “consensus on the facts.” And they know that to make many decisions fast means to make the wrong decisions. What is needed are few, but fundamental, decisions. What is needed is the right strategy rather than razzle-dazzle tactics.
- Effective executives consolidate their “discretionary” time into the largest possible continuing units. This three-step process: recording time, managing time, and consolidating time is the foundation.
- Time is the most valuable resource, start by regularly auditing how time is spent.
- Find ways to cut things out of the schedule through elimination, automation, or delegation.
1:1 discussions“What should we at the head of this organization know about your work? What do you want to tell me regarding this organization? Where do you see opportunities we do not exploit? Where do you see dangers to which we are still blind? And, all together, what do you want to know from me about the organization?”
- Focus on contributions, actual and possible instead of responsibility. People's value at an organization is completely derived from what they contribute.
- Executives should ask of themselves what can they contribute? To others success in their roles, ask subordinates to do the same so they can be held accountable.
- The focus on contribution by itself supplies the four basic requirements of effective human relations: communications, teamwork, self-development, and development of others.
- Focusing on contributions is a reflection on self-development to grow to meet the needs of the organization.
- Focus on and utilize strengths, not weaknesses.
- This works by maximizing your own strengths (supports contributions), your subordinates, and even your manager.
- Performance reviews should work this way as well, minimizing weakness to find well rounded people can lead to someone not having strengths. Weakness is irrelevant unless it negatively impacts the strength.
- Don't fit people into jobs that don't utilize their strengths, if something is going wrong then change the job and create opportunity.
- Feed the opportunity and starve the problems.
- Do first things first and only one thing at a time. Keep making steady progress.
- Ask yourself with any task "if we were not already doing this thing, would we pursue it now?" If the answer is a strong yes, then consider dropping it it cutting off resources to it. This is a great way to prune activities from the past that are draining now.
- Everything should be on the perpetual chopping block to cut and aim for efficiency gains.
- Figuring out what not to do is just as important, if not more so, as setting priorities. Do not let pressures from someone else or current events let you slip into a negative cycle here, I did this at Nuna all the time and need to learn from it.
- Focus on making the right decisions, really understanding them. Decisions aren't just "busy work".
- Manipulating more variables or moving quickly just to move quickly is sloppy.
- Decisions must happen at the highest conceptual level, not simply adapting to changing circumstances.
- These are the elements of the decision making process:
- The clear realization that the problem was generic and could only be solved through a decision which established a rule, a principle;
- The definition of the specifications which the answer to the problem had to satisfy, that is, of the “boundary conditions”;
- The thinking through what is “right,” that is, the solution which will fully satisfy the specifications before attention is given to the compromises, adaptations, and concessions needed to make the decision acceptable;
- The building into the decision of the action to carry it out;
- The “feedback” which tests the validity and effectiveness of the decision against the actual course of events.
- Assume initially that the problem is generic and don't focus on addressing symptoms, find the real problem.
- Decisions should start with opinions, not facts. These opinions should be tested and iterated on as hypotheses. Gather these as divergent options.
- If a decision needs to be made then the measurement instrument needs to be updated or created, this is critical to it's success. Find this by going out and getting early feedback.
- Seeking or creating disagreement in a decision is important to make sure that you are not starting out with a preconceived notion that cannot be overcome. This is similar to a red team approach to the problem.
- Imagination is needed to "change the situation" and look at problems in a new way.
- Start out by finding out why people disagree and then organize disagreement and disciplined discussions that are documented/structured.
- The last question that must be asked is whether a decision needs to be made at all. Doing nothing is an option, sometimes the best one when a problem will take care of itself.
- Oftentimes, effective decisions are difficult to swallow. It is a failure to let popular opinion or feelings change or stop an effective decision.