Takeaways: Ideal Executive by Ichak Kalderon Adizes

I have already recommended the Management and Mismanagement Styles book by Ichak Kalderon Adizes earlier and now there is another title by Adizes that should draw your attention The book is called The Ideal Executive. Why you cannot be one and to do about it, which actually precedes the Management Styles. The two share some portion of content, but focus on slightly different aspects of management and are both definitely worth reading. To get you the idea and make myself a short summary I will list the key things, which I noted in the Ideal Executive.

First of all, both books use the same framework to reason about managers and their work — PAEI. The acronym stands for four distinct functions that a manager should perform: Production, Administration, Entrepreneurship and Integration. They are explained in great detail in the books, but the key idea about these is that all four are crucial to proper management. At the same time because they sometimes come in conflict with each other, no single person can execute all of them alone, which is why there is no such thing as an ideal executive. The only reasonable way to address this issue is to assemble a team of managers, each of whom masters in some of these functions, and let it drive the organization forward. The books focus on this idea and revolve around its various implications.

Adizes goes deeply into analyzing various aspects of the management job and of the idea of a management team, mapping them to the PAEI framework. I will just list various disconnected bits that attracted my attention in the book:

  • The solution to the “no ideal manager problem” is a management mix of several people with different approaches: P will focus on what we have and how to get the best out of it, E will introduce desires and drive progress, A will make sure that everyone is doing what they should, I will connect and encourage everyone;
  • Even though current objectives of the members may differ significantly, the team must have common long-term interests. Management means not only making decisions, but also implementing them. The latter doesn’t happen if long term interests of the team-members are in conflict;
  • Four factors that enable trust and respect in an organization are: people, process that includes communication, structure that allows people to match their interests to interests of the entire organization and ensures that reward meets responsibility, common vision and values ensured by leaders
  • Structure must reasonably define the responsibilities, the extent of freedom for decision making and rewards allocation for P, A, E, I styles, because in each case these things should be different;
  • Managers of different styles need different approaches because to large extent they speak different languages. Even “yes” and “no” may mean different things to them;
  • When arriving into high-P’s office don’t start explanation from the early days of humanity — start at the end and with the conclusions, then move to additional info. High-P’s hate extra details — they want to get things done as quickly as possible;
  • When you are about to introduce your cool new idea to a high-E make an obvious mistake right in the beginning of your explanation of the problem — fixing it would allow high-E to feel his contribution to the solution. Otherwise he may get unhappy about you making a decision without his input;
  • Conflict is an important part of the work and management process. It should not be avoided, but should be kept constructive through proper management;
  • When discussing a decision and there is no consensus break all the apparent issues into three categories: questions, doubts and objections. Collaborate to answer questions first, then label doubts as questions and objections as doubts, answer the new questions. On the last stage you will hopefully have only the questions that were initially considered objections and will likely be able to resolve them as well. This looks like a psychological trick making people in the room focus on collaboration and making an idea workable instead of opposing it;
  • Leader is a person who does Integration and one other function excellently and is at least good with the other too;
  • Leader is like a thumb — its presence unites other fingers into a functional hand;
  • Good leader acts as a servant, who creates the circumstances in which others can shine;
  • Good leader can be distinguished by the scars on his tongue, because he keeps biting it to keep quiet when there is too much temptation to engage into a loud debate;
  • Best managers keep calm when a conflict rises. The hotter the conflict, the calmer the manager;
  • A manager must be able to hire, use, develop and reward people who don’t look like him;
  • Create circumstances in which conflict serves as an education tool and stays constructive;
  • Organization is what it does for others. Answering the following questions helps understand it better and formulate its goals and values: Who are the customers and what do they want? Which of their needs do we address? Which of their needs we don’t address? What are our abilities — what we can do?
  • The goals and values should be periodically reviewed — otherwise you will get stuck in a set of irrelevant rules, which will prevent growth of the company;
  • Currently management schools teach correct answers instead of teaching how to ask the right questions;

The book is a pleasure to read, and at the same time it provides a lot of advice in regards to management. This advice comes in a solid yet simple framework that helps reason about what one should be doing at his or her job and how it is different from what he or she is actually doing. The nice thing is that both the advice and the framework are very practical — learning these helped me notice many new things about the behavior of my colleagues and see some underdeveloped areas in my our activities, thus growing one step closer to the non-existent ideal manager.