High Output Management — My Learnings

The definition of Management in my high school book for Business Studies was:

Management is the art of getting work done through others.

While this line stuck with me, I have never been able to perceive this measurably enough for me to relate to it on a daily basis. How do you accurately measure how much work you’re doing if it’s being done through others?This book helped me understand this with crystal clarity. I’m going to break down three major concepts from the book in this post, that were instrumental in my understanding of this quote.

Leverage & Speed

Leverage is a measure of output of any managerial activity. The idea of leverage impacting my productivity made me understand that after a certain point, spending time on things which have a long term impact should become your default thought process.

This has also led me to surrender to the simple truth that not everything needs to be done by me alone and I’ll have to have heavy lifters work with me to carry the weight of the whole team’s output. As the book rightly says:

A manager’s output = The output of his organization/person + The output of the neighboring organizations/persons under his influence.

Relatedly, a manager’s productivity will also depend on the speed of activities performed. Our motto this quarter is ‘Do More with Less’, We have our business meet every quarter where we look back to learn from what we could have done better, and plan ahead to be better at what we do. This time we took it upon ourselves to be more productive. I think more than working hard this is also about working smart and working fast.

The two things are obviously related — This book defines speed coupled with leverage:

I learnt that the only measure of PRODUCTIVITY is OUTPUT and the only way PRODUCTIVITY can be increased is by increasing the SPEED of performing an activity, or by increased LEVERAGE of the activities being performed. This clearly shows how important it is to pick high leverage activities — imagine how much would change with any change in the value of L.

Time Keeping

Time keeping is everything and if you cannot measure what your daily output is you cannot expect your team to measure their own.

Having at-least 70% of your day planned is key to be able to guide yourself in the right direction. It is also important to record what you do (I’m heavily dependent on Google Calendar for this), in order to go back and evaluate how much was high leverage and how much was low leverage.

The idea also is to consistently plan to be able to have a handle on what your day looks like rather than your day running and pushing you around with arbitrary tasks that keep coming up.

Also, if you go through an overwhelmingly high volume of tasks everyday, this planning helps you consciously decide where to spend your time and where not to waste it.

Task-Relevant Maturity

There’s an example the writer mentions how he moved a top performing Sales Manager from the field into the plant as an in-charge. The performance of the manager went down drastically even though both jobs were similar in scope and nature (or so they thought). While the manager himself was capable and mature, his maturity in relevance to the task was very very low. Eventually he trained himself into the new role and became excellent at the new role as well. This concept of Task-Relevant Maturity stuck with me in a big way (mainly because I have personally seen this happen to people in front of my eyes).

Simply put, a person’s Task-Relevant Maturity would determine how involved you should be with his/her job, as a manager. The higher a team member’s task relevant maturity, the lower the involvement needed from my end.

So as a manager, if I work on everyone’s Task-Relevant Maturity in my team, I end up adding more leverage to my overall output formula — my own productivity increases by increasing my team’s Task-Relevant Maturity.

A subordinate’s Task-Relevant Maturity will not increase through non-managerial communication with peers. It is crucial to instruct, guide and then empower people through their individual professional journeys.

(Side note: Pressure only adds a sense of urgency and has little or no impact on the effort someone puts into their own TRM. This is never a suitable long-term solution.)

My Review

The book is a guidebook and manual for successful management. When I read the title I didn’t imagine that reading it would be so enriching. I have managed to pick and write on just 3 simple aspects here — there more than 50 perspectives that I plan to stick to for the rest of my life. I’ve read it twice and I plan to continue referring to it in the future.

After all we all want to be High Output Managers, don’t we?

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