Originally published in 1983, this book has grown to become a staple in the world of management books. Many of the examples provided allude to physical manufacturing processes (as was the way in the 80s), but their lessons can be applied to our tech-centric world of today.
The central principle of this book is that the output of a manager is the output of his organization. More strictly, a manager’s output is equal to the output of his organization plus the output of the neighboring organizations under his/her influence. For a manager to improve their output, they should focus on high leverage processes, which often come in the form of automation and work simplification. Because a manager’s work is never done, their time is best spent in areas where leverage is the greatest.
Leverage can be achieved in 3 ways:
Managers can increase leverage through delegation. To delegate something, both parties must share a common information base and set of operational ideas or notions on how to go about solving problems. Time management techniques can also be used to increase leverage. Techniques for this include batching similar tasks together, using your calendar as a forecasting tool, having a “raw inventory” of things that need to be done that aren’t time sensitive.
As a rule of thumb, a manager whose work is largely supervisory should have 6 to 8 subordinates where a half-day per week is allocated to each one.
Meetings: Next, Grove touches on meetings, which he considers to be the medium through which managerial work is performed. There are two types of meetings:
Specific forms of meetings that should be held include:
Decision Making: For decision making, an ideal model is free discussion → clear decisions → full support (if wrong, loop back to free discussion). In decision-making meetings, peer group syndrome typically takes place. This is when peers tend to look for a more senior manager even if they are not most competent to take over and shape a meeting. Ultimately, you must strive for an output. Help questions to do so include: what decision needs to be made, by when, who will decide, who will be consulted on, who will ratify / veto the decision, and who will need to be informed.
Planning: Today’s action for tomorrow’s output. Start by assessing current demand, then assess your present status, then figure out how to close the gap. This planning process is about what you have to do today to solve (or avoid) tomorrow’s problems.
Hybrid Organizations: Grove observes that as companies grow, they often take on the form of a hybrid organization. This involves having a mix between centralization and decentralization, with Business Units and Functional Units.
To make a hybrid organization work, you typically need people assigned to a manager within their business unit, and also within a functional group. One manager likely has the technical expertise required for the role, and the other likely oversees their day-to-day performance.
Sports Analogy: Managers need to elicit peak individual performance from their team. If an individual isn’t doing their job, it’s either because they can’t or they won’t. As a result, a manager has 2 tools: training and motivation.
He then references Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to explain how we behave at work. Put simply, needs lead people to have drives, which cause motivation. Therefore, to keep someone motivated, keep some needs unsatisfied at all times. Self-actualization is the highest of Maslow’s needs and is the only one that doesn’t extinguish. People in this category can be competence-driven or achievement-driven. Both types will spontaneously test the outer limits of their abilities.
But when the need to stretch is not spontaneous, management needs to foster it. This can be done by focusing on output and creating objectives with a 50/50 chance of failure. For some people, money only motivates until needs are satisfied. For others (in the self-actualization category), money as a measure of achievement will motivate without limit.
Having competition or a scoreboard also elicits motivations. Turn your workplace into a playing field and turn your subordinates into athletes.
Task Relevant Maturity (TRM): As the TRM of a subordinate increases, your management style should evolve from being structured and task-oriented to being less involved and establishing objectives that are monitored for.
Performance Reviews: The fundamental purpose of a performance review is to improve a subordinate’s performance. Start by assessing their skill level and identifying their motivation. The assessment should be delivered following the 3 L’s method:
It’s also best to give written reviews prior to the face to face meeting.
Other Tidbits: Two important tasks that all managers will face are interviewing and talking a valuable employee out of quitting. Both are important and an appropriate amount of time should be spent on them. To talk someone out of quitting, you must ultimately do whatever it takes to make them feel valued.
Finally, Grove touches on training. He views this as one of the most critical roles for a manager. Insufficiently trained employees produce inefficiencies, excess costs and unhappy customers. As such, training is one of the highest leverage activities a manager can perform. It should be a continual process, and not a one-time event.