I’ve been searching for a “magic book” for quite a long time. The book which would allow a beginner manager to get all the necessary knowledge at once. And it seems I’ve found it. “High Output Management” by Andrew S. Grove has been recognized unanimously as the main book on the Quora portal. It has got exalted reviews from almost all the critics who write about it and is recommended as a holy word for each beginner manager. I’ve found it, read it and here’s what I think of it.
I would give the book 4 out 5 and recommend it to thoughtful reading, despite some faults in the form (that’s the reason I can’t give it 5 ratings). It’ll be useful for a beginner manager due to wide coverage of all the main management questions — from setting goals to employee training — and a practical incline with a focus on productivity increase. And then if asked on some manager party “So, you’ve read Grove?”, you won’t choke with your cocktail and will answer cheerfully “A breakfast producing factory, one-to-one meeting? Surely! It’s classic. Everybody starts with it!”
All the book is dedicated to a question of productivity increase which can’t but make happy all the result-oriented readers.
It covers a large spectrum of basic management functions. It’s good for a beginner manager with large needs in training.
Despite the fact that the book is quite old, all the advice is still relevant.
There’s a good balance of theory and practice. It tells not only what and how should you do but also why should you do it this way.
Many examples from practice.
The material doesn’t always structure.
The author’s reflections don’t always end up in conclusions and definite recommendations.
Part of the recommendations is applicable to advanced managers only.
History of the book
Andrew S. Grove has moved to the USA in 1956 from Hungary and didn’t know English at all. He took part in the Intel foundation in 12 years, in 1968. He became the President of Intel in 11 years and write the book “High Output Management” in 1983 in which he sums up his 20-year management experience.
Main ideas of the book
Grove explains the content of the book in preface like this:
“There are 3 main ideas in the book.
The first is a management approach oriented to a product release. In other words, we use some apply some of the principles of human activity most oriented on a product release — a process of industrial production — on other forms of business activity, including manager work.
The second idea is that any business work, government bureaucracy, and the majority of human activity types is something performed not by single individuals but by teams. This idea may be presented as a thesis which is the most important in the book: the result of any manager is the production of the branch he/she manages.
Any team will work well only in case if you can get maximum response from the people in it. That’s the third idea of the book. Can a business use something that is a motivation for a sportsman in order to increase personal achievements? I think yes. That’s why I investigate sports analogy and strive to underline the significance of a notion called “necessary for performing a task by feedback”, for achieving and keeping of high level of response from each member of a team in the business.”
Recommendation from the book:
Another result of my reading the book by the SQ3R method was a summary of the main ideas I got from it. I hope it will help in making a decision whether you should spend time on it.
Operational management principles (“a breakfast production factory” example).
You can apply principles of operational management to any process (creative, administrative, service rendering ones).
It’s necessary to define a limitation stage — bottleneck — and build other processes around it.
A manager’s task is to invest the available resources right (people, budget, materials) in order to increase the production level.
– The material becomes more valuable as it goes through the production chain.
– That’s why you should exclude defects in the early stages and don’t waste time on processing knowingly wrong materials or tasks.
– The system of indices should be balanced. The development of one index depresses another important index as a rule.
– Quantity indices should be compared with quality ones.
– There are incoming indices that evaluate material or task flow entering a process and outgoing which evaluate its result.
– There are also leading indices which forecast future result and allow to make timely decisions.
It’s necessary to keep an archive of indices so you could use it for making production decisions.
Don’t change indices too often for compatibility of new and old measurements.
Lever influence is the main work of any manager.
Lever influence is affecting others so that company’s result increases.
A manager’s task is to maximize own lever influence.
Acceleration of controlling interactions with employees is one of the methods. While you don’t interact with them, they may not understand priorities and don’t do an important task or do it not the way it should be done.
Another method is to make speeches for employees, for example, on meetings or training.
Delegation doesn’t free a manger from responsibility for task fulfillment.
Lever influence may be negative.
Shorten interruptions due to finding regular time for solving incoming questions.
Meetings are the main work for any manager.
There are 2 types of meetings:
– task-oriented — for solving a definite task
– process-oriented — for regular information exchange (one-to-one, common, attestation)
Сommon meetings: be quick at the questions that aren’t interesting for all the employees. If there are questions interesting for all the employees, the manager’s role is passive, coordinative and the employee’s role — active.
1. Free discussion
2. Precise solution
3. Full support
Any decision should be made and agreed upon at the lowest possible level. It will provide support.
The task of a meeting chairman is to move it further.
Centralization and decentralization
Centralization can give you an effect of scale and experience accumulation.
Decentralization allows reacting to the environment in a more subtle and quick way.
Hybrid systems win (some functions are centralized, some aren’t).
Making good decisions about centralization and decentralization of definite functions is a good skill for a manager.
Hybrid systems need double accounting (on administrative and functional lines).
Control methods depend on complexity, environment changeability, and uncertainty — “CCU factor”.
Give new employees tasks with the lowest CCU factor.
Motivation — sport analog
A person doesn’t do the work due to 2 reasons:
– doesn’t want to do
– can’t do
A manager can affect the first reason by training, the second one — by motivation.
Motivation is carried out by the Maslow pyramid.
A manager should set high goals in order to motivate employees oriented on achievements and high productivity.
A manager should create a culture where productivity is appreciated.
Fear doesn’t work as a motivator and makes a conservator out of employees.
Money works as a life providing factor on the lowest level and as a factor that displays success and supports a strive for social approval on the highest ones.
A manager’s task is to get an employee to a point in a Maslow pyramid where he/she will strive for self-realization because there it becomes self-supporting and doesn’t need additional influence.
It’s created by a competitive environment and gamification.
A manager’s role is to be a trainer. Don’t take away an employee’s responsibility for team success. Be strong with your team. Know the game well.
Readiness to task fulfillment
The density of operational control depends on the maturity level of employee towards a task.
Managers consider themselves to be more communicative and delegating than their employees.
Contents of evaluation:
– You need to evaluate 2 types of factors: outlet — an employee work result, inner — process indices.
It’s necessary to single out carefully the consequence of his/her efforts from an environmental effect.
The same thing concerns separating the results of a team manager from the results of team members.
Evaluation of team manager can’t be higher than the evaluation of his/her team.
It’s necessary to avoid “a trap of potential” — always evaluate real results, not potential ones.
How to deliver evaluation:
– It’s done for an employee and a manager should totally concentrate on him/her.
– It’s necessary to watch his/her reaction attentively in order to make sure that an employee understands everything right.
– There are 3 types of feedbacks:
1. Balanced — listing of both positive and negative sides. Negative is for getting better results. An employee’s possibilities are limited so focus on key messages.
2. Explosion — negative feedback. An employee may go through 5 stages: ignoring, denial, accusation of others, admitting of responsibility, and finding a solution. If a manager can’t move an employee to the last stage, you can use authority and act by direct instructions. The main thing is to get an obligation from an employee to change his/her behavior.
3. Positive — try to give feedback that will allow a good worker to be even better.
– You may ask an employee for self-evaluation.
– A number of manager remarks should be bigger than the number of own employee’s remarks.
– Otherwise and employee may think that a manager doesn’t watch him/her and will feel that he/she makes an evaluation instead of a manager.
– You can ask an employee to evaluate you (manager).
– You should make an employee understand that it’s made in a way of recommendation.
4 investigation areas at an interview:
– employee’s knowledge (technical skills, qualification).
– his/her action (the way acquired knowledge was applied).
– differences (what did failures taught him/her, current problems).
Candidate’s questions can tell a lot about who he/she is and the way he/she thinks.
Keeping a leaving employee
Your first reaction is conclusive.
Let him/her speak out.
Ask your team manager to help.
If you can’t keep an employee in your department, try to keep him/her in your company by moving him/her to another department.
Money as a feedback
Money stops playing a life-providing function and becomes a means of feedback as income increases.
So it’s important that:
– a reward is proportional to the result.
– some parts of income should alterable and connected to results as basic income grows.
Basic income can be connected to the experience, whole effectiveness, or a combination of both.
– should be based on achievements as it sends the right message to the rest of a team.
– Peter’s principle:
1. There are incompetent employees in all positions in organizations based on productivity culture.
2. A person is promoted until he/she deserves it.
3. A person is promoted until his/her competence isn’t sufficient for a new position.
4. As a result, there are people in all positions not competent enough for a promotion.
5. However, there’s no better alternative.
6. One of the variants is to get a person back to a previous position where he/she was competent enough with the possibility to be promoted again.
Training is the manager’s task.
An untrained employee can make harm to a company accidentally.
A manager should carry out training.
There are 2 ways to increase efficiency: motivation and training.
If a manager motivates others, why he/she would delegate training?
A manager who carries out training is a role model. So he/she adds importance and authority to training this way.
The value of training also includes the value of time of the employee’s time who takes part in it so it should be very focused.
How to build training:
– define the necessary skills for employees.
– make a short course.
– deliver it to the best employees and get feedback.
– can you do the training yourself or should you prepare training managers?
– get feedback after courses for further enhancement.