High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove


I finished listening to High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove this week. I felt this book is a bit outdated as it was written 37 years back. For that time, it must have been a good book as Grove spelled out a lot of now well-known management tactics and strategies in this book. Also as my area of interest is more on software engineering leadership instead of just leadership in general, I felt like there was not enough for me to expect out of this book. But still it may be good for others who are looking for a general-purpose management book around team building, process optimization, and decision making.
Here are some of the quotes from the book.
  • “Remember too that your time is your one finite resource, and when you say “yes” to one thing you are inevitably saying “no” to another.”
  • “The absolute truth is that if you don’t know what you want, you won’t get it.”
  • “My day always ends when I’m tired and ready to go home, not when I’m done. I am never done.”
  • “A manager’s output = The output of his organization + The output of the neighboring organizations under his influence”
  • “So in the end careful interviewing doesn’t guarantee you anything, it merely increases your odds of getting lucky.”
  • “When a person is not doing his job, there can only be two reasons for it. The person either can’t do it or won’t do it; he is either not capable or not motivated. To determine which, we can employ a simple mental test: if the person’s life depended on doing the work, could he do it? If the answer is yes, that person is not motivated; if the answer is no, he is not capable.”
  • “To use your calendar as a production-planning tool, you must accept responsibility for two things: 1.  You should move toward the active use of your calendar, taking the initiative to fill the holes between the time-critical events with non-time-critical though necessary activities. 2.  You should say “no” at the outset to work beyond your capacity to handle.”
  • “People who plan have to have the guts, honesty, and discipline to drop projects as well as to initiate them, to shake their heads “no” as well as to smile “yes.”
  • “As a rule of thumb, a manager whose work is largely supervisory should have six to eight subordinates; three or four are too few and ten are too many. This range comes from a guideline that a manager should allocate about a half day per week to each of his subordinates.”
  • “What is the role of the supervisor in a one-on-one? He should facilitate the subordinate’s expression of what’s going on and what’s bothering him. The supervisor is there to learn and to coach.”
  • “How you handle your own time is, in my view, the single most important aspect of being a role model and leader.”
  • “A real time-saver is using a “hold” file where both the supervisor and subordinate accumulate important but not altogether urgent issues for discussion at the next meeting.”
  • “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.”
  • “So even if you’re just an invited participant, you should ask yourself if the meeting—and your attendance—is desirable and justified.”
  • “In effect, the lack of a decision is the same as a negative decision; no green light is a red light, and work can stop for a whole organization.”
  • “If you only understand one thing about building products, you must understand that energy put in early in the process pays off tenfold and energy put in at the end of the program pays off negative tenfold.”
  • “Globalization simply means that business knows no national boundaries. Capital and work—your work and your counterparts’ work—can go anywhere on earth and do a job.”
  • “Keep in mind that a meeting called to make a specific decision is hard to keep moving if more than six or seven people attend. Eight people should be the absolute cutoff.”
  • “We must first overcome cultural prejudice. Our society respects someone’s throwing himself into sports, but anybody who works very long hours is regarded as sick, a workaholic. So the prejudices of the majority say that sports are good and fun, but work is drudgery, a necessary evil, and in no way a source of pleasure.”
  • “The role of the manager here is also clear: it is that of the coach. First, an ideal coach takes no personal credit for the success of his team, and because of that his players trust him. Second, he is tough on his team. By being critical, he tries to get the best performance his team members can provide. Third, a good coach was likely a good player himself at one time. And having played the game well, he also understands it well.”
  • “Grove’s Law: All large organizations with a common business purpose end up in a hybrid organizational form.”
  • “An organization does not live by its members agreeing with one another at all times about everything. It lives instead by people committing to support the decisions and the moves of the business.”
  • “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. You are in competition with millions of similar businesses.”
  • “The long and short of it: if performance matters in your operation, performance reviews are absolutely necessary.”
  • “As you review a manager, should you be judging his performance or the performance of the group under his supervision? You should be doing both. Ultimately what you are after is the performance of the group, but the manager is there to add value in some way.”

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