The more things change…


I love to browse the ever-expanding popular business book section of any local bookstore. It is a sort of information mining, panning through pages of drivel to find an occasional gem. The wide variety of perspectives is amazing, covering everything from “Zen Business” to “Questionable Cheese Analogies” to “the Business Art of War” to “87 Steps to Fufill your Managerial Soul.”

We often think highly of the evolution of management and executive focus and positioning but rarely observe that the vast majority is repackaged content approached from a different angle.  In a recent excursion I bought a Peter Drucker book called “The Effective Executive.” Having paged through it while standing in the Sunday crowd of the Singapore Borders, there seemed to be a lot of practical guidance and methodology to keep focused on major goals without drowning in the minutia that is (way) too easy to get caught up in. I purchased a copy, thinking that if there are even a couple of gems in this book that I can apply, then the price of the book is a small price to pay.

Later at home, reading through the chapters, it was apparent that this book had more than its share of gems, especially in how to be effective in managing organizational chaos in times of change and making a difference in your work while workloads continue to increase and resources decrease. Great stuff and incredibly applicable to our current business environments.

This book rests on two premises;
1. The executive’s job is to be effective; and
2. Effectiveness can be learned

The concept of being effective is about focusing on what gets done. There are plenty of efficient people working hard, but whether or not they are effective is a different question. “Intelligence, imagaination, and knowledge ar essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results. By themselves, they only set limits to what can be attained.” (p.2)

Effectiveness is the ability to get the right things done. It not an inherent ability, rather it is a series of habits that drive the desired outcome. Habits include:
1. Controlling time invested
2. Focus on the result/outcome first, and then consider the effort and work involved
3. Build on strengths
4. Concentrate on the areas where they will get the largest return on investment
5. Make effective decisions. “What is needed is the right strategy rather than razzle-dazzle tactics.”

I later happened to notice the copyright page. This very topical book, addressing key issues that executives face today was published in 1967!  In our current era of BlackBerries, Cellular Phones, Virtual Offices and a pleathora of messaging (email, sms, im, etc), we still face the exact same challenges. This book was written when computers were not on everyone’s desks and memos were done by the typing pool and distributed on paper. Since this book was published, hundreds of thousands of books have been published on management and workstyle efficiency. Although technology has raced ahead, human evolution moves at a glacial pace.