Review: The Effective Executive, Revised by Peter F. Drucker

I read this book on my recent trip to and from Austin to visit with my EVMS team. This is an interesting short book about effectiveness, not limited to executives but applicable to all knowledge workers. As the jacket states,

The measure of an executive, Peter Drucker reminds us, is the ability to "get the right things done." This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results.

The book starts with an essay with the theme, "effectiveness can be learned." He goes on to point out that the value of a knowledge worker is his or her ability to contribute to the corporation, not to attend meetings. Thus, it makes sense that his essential practices are related to this theme:

  1. Know thy time
  2. What can I contribute?
  3. Make strength productive
  4. Set the right priorities
  5. Make effective decisions

Most of knowing ones time is realizing where it all goes. Meetings are generally not a way to contribute to the organization. Working with customers might not be either. He asserts that an executive's time belongs to everyone else. As far as contribution goes, an executive easily falls into the trap of handling operations instead of really contributing to the company. He points out that organizations are supposed to be multipliers of the contributions of the knowledge workers within them, but typically fail at this. Another common trap is by being within an organization an executive may lose his or her global view.

While some of the book goes all the way back to the first essays from Drucker in 1966, most of it still rings true today. It helps that the text has been revised several times since then, most recently in 2002.

Compare his list of five with Covey's list of seven habits:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win/win
  5. Seek first to understand, then be understood
  6. Synergize principles of creative communication
  7. Sharpen the saw: principles of self-renewal

Some are certainly similar, especially prioritization, but Covey emphasizes communications, relationships, and self-development . I think Covey's list reflects our modern sensibilities, but Drucker's view has its merit. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted Wednesday, Aug 4 2004 08:44 PM

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