Learning is thinking with other's ideas: Good managers learn from the masters

Process Excellence Network
Posted: 01/13/2013

In an actively competitive world, ineffectualness inevitably shows up on P&L statements, cash flows, and balance sheets.

Ineffectualness doesn't just apply to business. It applies to every institution in society –- universities and colleges, unions, government, hospitals, charitable foundations, and the like.

In the final analysis, the only test of management is performance. Either management performs or it doesn't.

Getting Back to Basics

More than 23 years ago Harvard's Ted Levitt said:"The general rule may be laid down that bad performance reflects the existence of bad management… That is especially so in the case of bad relative performance that remains relatively bad for two years or more…..

Why revinent the wheel when it comes to management?

… Not-good managers are generally very good at explaining how much better things are than they seem, and what bunch of things are being or will be done to make them even better… That in part explains why they exhaust and outlast critics… They sound better than they are...

…It can be said with confident certainty that wherever the articulate and persuasive rationalizer for constantly or frequently poor performance regularly shows up, the organization will surely slow down and go under…"

Levitt implied that not-good managers tend to blame bad performance on suddenly bad or changing times, prior management decisions and commitments, and a host of other real and alleged reasons for chronic underperformance.

"But since it is job to manage for the right results, regardless of circumstance, no such excuses can be warranted."

Ineffectiveness is ineffectiveness

No amount of spin changes the facts. The only thing that determines how we see and respond to the facts is our perception.

Perception is determined by experience and knowledge. Repeat this five times. It will help you understand the growing and heated debates about America's economic policies and more.

A polite way to express this is to say: "There's an incongruity in perceptions."

Said Peter F. Drucker: "What A sees so vividly, B does not see it all. And, therefore, what A argues has no pertinence to B's concerns and vice versa."

"Just as the human ear," Drucker wrote,"does not hear sounds above a certain pitch, so does human perception all together not perceive what is beyond its range of perception.

When a change in perception takes place, the facts do not change. Their meaning does."

What did Drucker mean by this statement? With more knowledge and experience, perceptions can change.

Mark Twain once quipped: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

How we see things is determined by our experience and knowledge. Our perception determines how we understand the "facts." Our perception influences how we respond.

What Makes an Executive Truly Effective?

Drucker provided us with an incredible body of knowledge relating to what it takes to become an effective executive.

In essence, management's effectiveness derives from its two major tasks –-" deciding what is to be done and deciding how to do the job, organizing and controlling its execution, and measuring its results."

Effective executives, first, decide the right things to do. Indeed, Drucker defined "effectiveness" as doing the right things. He defined "efficiency" as doing things right. Efficiency must be built on a foundation of effectiveness.

Effective executives know that it's not enough that right actions are taken. They must also be timely and vigorous. Doing the right things and doing them confidently produces contagious confidence and energy in those that have to convert strategies into doing.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Drucker suggested that the key to effectiveness was practice. And as with any practice, job practice did not come automatically but could be acquired through constant learning.

Experience teaches us to reduce the number of our mistakes. But none of us has the time for continuous trial and error learning. We must learn more and more from the experience of others.

If people refuse to learn, they will never become effective. They have to learn to think with other people's ideas. Ideas which have met the concrete test of application. Ideas which produce results when converted into meaningful action.

Indeed, every responsible executive must increase their idea sources. Widen their friendships, their contacts, and other learning opportunities. Otherwise they remain or become ineffective as a rapidly changing and disruptive future emerges.

Drucker provided us with incredible insights on the necessity for abandoning obsolete and unproductive activities and programs to free resources to make the future happen… Picking the right people… Focusing on opportunities rather than problems… And so much more!

But these concepts have to be studied. Learned. Practiced. It has to become part of one's DNA. This takes years.

That's the value of knowledge and experience! And that usually comes with "battle tested" executives.

But experienced executives also know they must spend more time to keep up with knowledge––old and new–– lest others beat him/her to its use.

Learning to Think With the Ideas of the Masters

It's easy to delude ourselves.

When one spends decades learning the thought processes of Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, Ted Levitt, Philip Kotler, Tom Peters, Charles Handy and hundreds more, one tends to believe, in some way, others have learned many of the same thought processes.

Executives are not paid to be philosophers. They are paid to get things done. But the truly successful have learned to learn with the ideas of the masters.

Perhaps Tom peters said it best: "The best leaders are the best note-takers, the best 'askers,' the best learners… They are shameless thieves [of the best ideas]"

America and many other countries are now headed for deep trouble because the most powerful and proven ideas ever formulated have not been learned or understood… or quite possibly forgotten.

Our rivals on the corporate battlefield are reading the masters and putting their ideas into practice. As a result, they are becoming formidable foes.

Plus, many of these countries now base their economic policies on economic growth models that borrow heavily from the writings of the economic theory masters including Frederich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Peter Drucker, James Buchanan, Joseph Schumpeter and others now classified as Neo-Classical economists (as opposed to Keynesian economists).

In terms of economic results, the Neo-Classical school of economic principles have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. (They have not been proven in terms of creating a functioning society… but that's a discussion for another article)

It seems America has forgotten what made it successful. Thought guides action. It's important that America rediscovers timeless thought leaders. And puts into practice their enduring truths. Otherwise we will soon become yesterday's superstar.

Study Success

Drucker recalled in his memoir Adventures of a Bystander: "I suddenly realized that the right method, at least for me, was to look for the thing that worked and for the people who perform.

I realize that I, at least, do not learn from mistakes. I have to learn from successes."

Stated differently, swiping from the best with pride is an age-old formula for success. Studying success –- or what the successful are doing to get results –- is a sure-fire recipe for increasing the probability of getting positive results.

"In today's ever-accelerating business environment, you must," Tom Peters reminds us, "put NIH (Not Invented Here) behind you-– and learn to copy (with unique adaptation/enhancement) from the best!

Even if we end up copying from the people who copied us, we will fuel economic growth.

Happily, there is no law against this. All it takes is a willingness to learn. But that's easier said than done.

If you are investing in a business process management plan, then you will want to make sure that you are not ineffective; neither do you want your plan to be of little use. PEX network’s free: BPM open house event will give you insight into how to best manage your current BPM plan and hear success stories.

Process Excellence Network
Posted: 01/13/2013

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