“High Output Management” – Introduction

High Output Management” by Andrew Grove is a practical and pragmatic book that covers multiple topics, insights, and ideas from the management world. This article is an introductory one about this book and it covers the role of the manager in this changing context, the management equation, and the purpose of the training in your team members’ growth.

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Whether you are a know-how manager or a traditional manager, your company has no choice but to operate in an environment shaped by the forces of globalization and the information revolution. Companies today basically have two choices: adapt or die. Some have died in front of our eyes; others are struggling with the adaptation. As they struggle, the methods of doing business that worked very well for them for decades are becoming history. Companies that have had generations of employees growing up under a no-layoff policy are now dumping ten thousand people at a time onto the street. Unfortunately, that’s all part of the process of adaptation.

All managers in such companies need to adapt to the new environment. What are the rules of the new environment? First, everything happens faster. Second, anything that can be done will be done, if not by you, then by someone else. Let there be no misunderstanding: These changes lead to a less kind, less gentle, and less predictable workplace.

Again, as a manager in such a workplace, you need to develop a higher tolerance for disorder. Now, you should still not accept disorder. In fact you should do your best to drive what’s around you to order.

💡The output of a a manager is the output of the organizational units under his or her supervision or influence.

We must recognize that no amount of formal planning can anticipate changes such as globalization and the information revolution we’ve referred to above. Does that mean that you shouldn’t plan? Not at all. You need to plan the way a fire department plans. It cannot anticipate where the next fire will be, so it has to shape an energetic and efficient team that is capable of responding to the unanticipated as well as to any ordinary event.

One of the fundamental tenets of Intel’s managerial philosophy is the one-on-one meeting between a supervisor and a subordinate. Its main purposes are mutual education and exchange of information. By talking about specific problems and situations, the supervisor teaches the subordinate his skills and know-how, and suggests ways to approach things. At the same time, the subordinate provides the supervisor with detailed information about what he is doing and what he is concerned about. Obviously, one-on-one take time, both in preparing for them and in actually holding them – time that today’s busier manager may not have.

💡As a general rule, you have to accept that no matter where you work, you are not an employee – you are in a business with one employee: yourself.

The recipe for success for the generation of managers who worked in the sixties, seventies, and much of the eighties was to join stable and enlightened companies and help them do well; these companies in turn would reward such managers with a career. Obviously, that is no longer the case.

The key task is to manager your career so that you do not become a casualty.

The key to survival is to learn to add more value.

A manager’s output = the output of this organization + the output of the neighboring organizations under his influence.

“When a person is not doing his job, there can only be two reasons for it. The person can’t do it or won’t do it; he is either not capable or not motivated.” This insight enables a manager to dramatically focus on her efforts. All you can do to improve the output of an employee is motivate and train. There is nothing else.

Andy asks the question of whether you should be friends with the people you manage: everyone must decide for himself what is professional and appropriate here. A test might be to imagine yourself delivering a tough performance review to your friend. Do you cringe at the thought? If so, don’t make friends at work. If your stomach remains unaffected, you are likely to be someone whose personal relationships will strengthen work relationships.

“It is better to be a hands-on or hands-off manager?”

It seems like a simple enough question, but it sorts out the 95 percent of managers who never think deeply about their craft from the 5 percent who do. The answer, as Andy explains, is it depends. Specifically, it depends on the employee. If the employee is immature in the task, then hands-on training is essential. If the employee is more mature, then a delegate approach is warranted. Andy presents a great example of this: “The subordinate did poor work. My associate’s reaction: ‘He has to make his own mistakes. That’s how he learns!’ The problem with this is that the subordinate tuition is paid by his customers. And that is absolutely wrong.”

“Why training is the boss’s job?”

💡There are only 2 ways in which a manager can impact an employee’s output: motivation and training. If you are not training, then you are basically neglecting half of the job.

Andy’s take on CEOs missing their numbers despite having told investors that their businesses were strong.

The bubble had burst for the first wave of Internet companies nearly a year prior, so it surprised me that so many of them had not seen this coming. Andy replied with an answer that I did not expect: “CEOs always act on leading indicators of good news, but only act on lagging indicators of bad news. Why? In order to build anything great, you have to be an optimist, because by definition you are trying to do something that most people would consider impossible. Optimists most certainly do not listen to leading indicators of bad news.”

The Peter Principle is a concept in management theory in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities related to the intended role. Thus, “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.”

1 thought on ““High Output Management” – Introduction

  1. Pingback: “High Output Management” – Part 1 | alin miu

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