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Book: High Output Management

Author:  Andrew Grove

Purchase:  Print | eBook

Citation:  Grove, A. (1995). High output management. New York: Vintage.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. What do managers really do? 1) Gather Information, 2) Give Information, 3) Make Decisions, 4) "Nudge" Others, and 5) Serve as a Role Model. (pg. 47)

  2. At Intel, a one-on-one is a meeting between supervisor and a subordinate, and it is the principal way their business relationship is maintained. Its main purpose is mutual teaching and exchange of information. The supervisor teaching the subordinate his skills and know-how, while the subordinate provides the supervisor with information about what he is doing and what he is concerned about. Regularly scheduled one-on-ones are highly unusual outside of Intel. Other managers say, "I don't need scheduled meetings with my subordinate; I see him several times a day." But there is an enormous difference between a casual encounter and a one-on-one. (pg. 73)

  3. Like other managerial processes, decision-making is likelier to generate high-quality output in a timely fashion if we clearly lay out the steps needed to make the decision. In other words, one of the manager's key tasks is to settle six important questions in advance: 1) What decision needs to be made? 2) What does it have to be made? 3) Who will decide? 4) Who will need to be consulted prior to making the decision? 5) Who will ratify or veto the decision? and, 6) Who will need to be informed of the decision? Politics and manipulation or even their appearance should be avoided at all costs. I can think of no better way to make the decision-making process straightforward than to apply before the fact the structure imposed by our six questions. (pg. 97)


Other Key Ideas:

There is an especially efficient way to get information, much neglected by most managers. That is to visit a particular place in the company and observe what is going on there. When someone comes to see someone in an office, this interaction often takes half an hour. But if a manager walks through an area, he can have a two minute conversation with the employee and be on his way. Such visits are an extremely effective and efficient way to transact managerial business. (pg. 49)

Two-thirds of my time can be spent in a meeting of one kind or another. Before you are horrified by how much time I spend in meetings, answer a question: which of the following activities - information-gathering, information-giving, decision making, nudging, and being a role model - could I have performed outside a meeting? The answer is practically none. Meetings provide an occasion for managerial activities. (pg. 53)

Delegation without follow-through is abdication. You can never wash your hands of a task. Even after you delegate it, you are still responsible for its accomplishment, and monitoring the delegated task is the only practical way for you to ensure a result. Monitoring is not meddling, but means checking to make sure an activity is proceeding in line with expectations. (pg. 60)

A key point about a one-on-one: It should be regarded as the subordinate's meeting, with its agenda and tone set by him. There's a good reason for this. Somebody needs to prepare him for the meeting. The supervisor with eight subordinate would have to prepare eight times; the subordinate only once. What should be covered in a one-on-one? Performance indicators, anything important that has happened since the last meeting, potential problems - and any issue that preoccupies and nags the subordinate. 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. He should try and keep the flow of thoughts coming by prompting the subordinate until they have gotten to the bottom of a problem. (pg. 75)

The supervisor and the subordinate should have a copy of the notes from the one-to-one meeting. I do it to keep my mind from drifting and also to help me digest the information. Also, many issues in a one-on-one lead to action required on part of the subordinate. This allows the supervisor to follow up at the next one-to-one meeting. (pg. 76)

The leader of the meeting should be responsible for logistical matters. He should send out an agenda that clearly states the purpose of the meeting. Once the meeting is over, the leaders must nail down exactly what happened by sending out minutes that summarize the discussion that occurred, the decision made, and the actions to be taken. The minutes should be clear and as specific as possible, telling the reader what is to be done, who is to do it, and when. All this may seem like too much trouble, but if the meeting was worth calling in the first pace, the work needed to produce minutes is a small additional investment (an activity with high leverage) to ensure that the full benefit of the meeting is obtained. (pg. 87)

Giving performance reviews is the single most important form of task-relevant feedback we as supervisors can provide. The review will influence a subordinate's performance - positively or negatively - for a long time, which makes the appraisal one of the manager's highest-leverage activities. (pg. 182)

Let's talk about surprises. If you have discharged your supervisory responsibilities adequately throughout the year, holding regular one-on-one meetings and providing guidance when needed, there should never be any surprises at a performance review, right? Wrong. What do you do? You're faced with either delivering the message or not, but if the purpose of the review is to improve your subordinate's performance, you must deliver it. Preferably, a review should not contain any surprises, but if you uncover one, swallow hard and bring it up. (pg. 192)

When delivering a performance review it is common for a supervisor to give little attention to how a high achiever could do better. But for a poor performer, the supervisor concentrates heavily on ways he can improve performance. I think we have our priorities reversed. Concentrating on the stars is a high-leverage activity: if they get better, the impact on group output is very great indeed. No matter how stellar a person's performance level is, there is always room for improvement. (pg. 197)

Each year I read 100 evaluations, all of those written by my own subordinates and randomly selected. I comment on them and send them back for rewrites or with a complimentary note. I do this with as much noise and visibility as I can, because I want to reiterate and reaffirm the significance the system has and should have for every employee. (pg. 202)

A manager generally has two ways to improve the level of individual performance of his subordinates: by increasing motivation and by increasing individual capability. It is generally accepted that motivating employees is a key task of managers, one that can't be delegated to someone else. Why shouldn't that be true for training? Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform. Say you put in 12 hours of work to train 10 employees. If your training efforts result in a 1 percent improvement in your subordinates' performance, your company will gain 200 hours of work as the result of the expenditure of your 12 hours. (pg. 222)

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