The business book club: key leadership lessons from Peter F Drucker’s The Effective Executive
Wednesday 25th July 2018
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
An executive can be any knowledge worker whose contribution affects the organisation's performance. To become effective, workers must learn five habits: to manage time, focus on their contribution, build on their strengths, set priorities and make good decisions.
Everything requires time, so it is the key resource to be managed. In largely self-directed roles, the key is knowing what work to do and using time efficiently.
Drucker recommends time-tracking exercises to work out how much we use on inessential tasks. To be efficient, individuals need to be responsible for their contributions. If they set themselves high standards, knowledge workers can also ask the same of colleagues.
The goal of every organisation should be to use its workers' strengths as a "building block for joint performance". Too many workers are employed because they are seen to fit the culture, rather than for their abilities. In safety, being effective is more important than being likeable.
Prioritising tasks is the first step. If an OSH practitioner visits a site for a regular risk assessment only to discover nothing of consequence, they need to ask whether the task is worth the effort. Work in the safety sphere is often reactive, so planning work is not easy, but it is a great first step in effectiveness.
Effective practitioners step outside their "safety zones" and avoid complacency and overconfidence
Drucker believes that most organisational decisions are based on either "generic" or "exceptional" situations. If fires keep breaking out in the same part of a warehouse, safety practitioners need to work out why and impose a control. By addressing generic situations we cut the need for future decisions. But exceptional occurrences will always need to be investigated individually.
This sounds obvious but Drucker argues most decision-makers underestimate the importance of problem definition and proceed with an incomplete understanding or waste time reinvestigating old issues.
Many leaders trying to resolve issues ask themselves what solutions their managers would find acceptable. Resource concerns also unduly influence decisions. Ineffective people take the path of least resistance or fit the facts to their preferred conclusion.
Effective practitioners step outside their "safety zones" and avoid complacency and overconfidence.
To reach our potential we have to maintain open minds, and have the integrity and strength to make honest, hard choices, rather than popular ones.
The UK’s default retirement age was removed in 2011. Yet, although age discrimination in employment has been banned in the UK since 2006 and all anti-discrimination laws were combined under the Equality Act 2010, an inquiry by parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee has found widespread failings in enforcement.
The book is taught in business schools around the world. In the mid-1970s, Kahneman changed the way we thought about thinking. With his friend Amos Tversky, Kahneman explained that the brain creates cognitive shortcuts to resolve problems. He defined these “heuristics” as simple procedures that help to “find adequate, though often imperfect, answers to difficult questions”.Kahneman outlines the System 1 (fast) and System 2 (slow) thinking modes of the human brain and explains how we use heuristics to aid decision-making.
One legal firm estimates that only around 5% of workplace fatality prosecutions involve a manslaughter charge against an individual. But convictions are not unknown; this magazine has reported on four in the past 12 months.
Last year there were 1.71 billion passenger journeys. This is the first decline for many years, although it still represents a near-peak figure, and the last fatality occurred in a train derailment at Grayrigg in Cumbria in February 2007. Ann Mills, RSSB’s head of health and safety, said: “Despite these improvements, it’s worth stressing that the risk from train accidents has not been eliminated.” In total, there was one worker fatality and 164 major injuries to the workforce, as well as 5,694 minor injuries and 803 cases of shock or trauma last year.
This corresponds to a rate of 0.45 deaths per 100,000 workers and reflects the average five-year (2013-14 to 2017-18) rate of 0.45 per 100,000 workers, or 141 deaths. Statisticians focus on the rate of accidents rather than the absolute total because it is not distorted by variations in numbers employed in the economy year to year.