High Output Management

Andrew S. Grove


"The output of a manager is the output of the organizational units under his or her supervision or influence."

PART I - The Breakfast Factory

Chapter 1 - The Basics of Production: Delivering a Breakfast (or a College Graduate, or a Compiler, or a Convicted Criminal...)

Chapter 2 - Managing the Breakfast Factory

  • Leading Indicators
  • Trend Indicators
  • Stagger Charts

PART II - Management is a Team Game

Chapter 3 - Managerial Leverage

A manager's output = The output of his organization + The output of the neighboring organizations under his influence

"Reports are more a medium of self-discipline than a way to communicate information. Writing the report is important; reading it often is not."

Main tasks:

  • information-gathering
  • information-giving
  • decision making
  • nudging
  • being a role model

"Information-gathering is the basis of all other managerial work, which is why I choose to spend so much of my day doing it."

"How you handle your own time is, in my view, the single most important aspect of being a role model and leader."

Leverage - people impacted ratio and impact duration ratio and/or unique expertise

"Delegation without follow-through is abdication."

Manage your calendar as a "production planning tool":

  • make an active use of your calendar
  • say no to overcapacity
  • allow slack in your scheduling
  • carry a "raw material inventory" in terms of projects

Supervisory manager - 6-8 subordinates (or half-day-subordinate-equivalents)

Chapter 4 - Meetings - The Medium of Managerial Work

Process-Oriented Meetings

  • One-on-ones - mutual teaching and exchange of information - once a week to once every few weeks depending on maturity - one hour minimum - should be regarded as the subordinate's meeting, with its agenda and tone set by him - use a "hold file" (family one-on-ones - especially kids->parents)
  • Staff Meetings - all subordinates - decision-making discussion around an agenda with the manager acting as moderator
  • Operation Reviews - middle manager organising one of his junior manager's project presentation to their senior manager

Mission-Oriented Meetings - decision-making meeting with a clear agenda from the "chairman" manager, potential opt-out or call-off if not required (vs. attendees' time cost) - 6-7 participants, 8 max - post-meeting minutes, decision made, follow-up actions.

"Peter Drucker said that if people spend more than 25 percent of their time in meetings, it is a sign of malorganization. I would put it another way: the real sign of malorganization is when people spend more than 25% of their time in ad hoc mission-oriented meetings."

Chapter 5 - Decisions, Decisions

Ideal decision-making process:

  1. free discussion
  2. clear decision
  3. full support

Keep decision-making at the lowest competent level.

The Peer-Group Syndrome

Striving for the Output

  • What decision needs to be made?
  • When does it have to be made?
  • Who will decide?
  • Who will need to be consulted prior to making the decision?
  • Who will ratify or veto the decision?
  • Who will need to be informed of the decision?

Chapter 6 - Planning: Today's Actions for Tomorrow's Output

OKRs (MBO - Management by Objectives)

PART III - Team of Teams

Chapter 7 - The Breakfast Factory Goes National

Chapter 8 - Hybrid Organizations

Mission-oriented Teams (decentralised) vs. Functional Teams (centralised)

"Good management rests on a reconciliation of centralization and decentralization." - Alfred Sloan

Grove's Law: "All large organizations with a common business purpose end up in a hybrid organizational form."

Chapter 9 - Dual Reporting

Chapter 10 - Modes of Control

  • Free-market forces
  • Contractual obligations
  • Cultural values

CUA = Complexity, Uncertainty & Ambiguity

Most Appropriate Mode of Control (2x2 matrix):

  • self-interest + low CUA = free-market forces
  • group interest + low CUA = contractual obligations
  • group interest + high CUA = cultural values
  • self-interest + high CUA = nothing works!

PART IV - The Players

Chapter 11 - The Sports Analogy

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.

Maslow's theory of motivation:

  1. Physiological Needs
  2. Security/Safety Needs
  3. Social/Affiliation Needs
  4. Esteem/Recognition Needs
  5. Self-Actualization Needs

Chapter 12 - Task-Relevant Maturity

Chapter 13 - Performance Appraisal: Manager as Judge and Jury

Delivering the Assessment:

  • Level with your subordinate
  • Listen (including body language)
  • Leave yourself out

The stages of problem solving:

  1. Ignore
  2. Deny
  3. Blame others
  4. Assume responsibility
  5. Find solution

"Don't confuse emotional comfort with operational need. To make things work, people do not need to side with you; you only need them to commit themselves to pursue a course of action that has been decided upon."

Chapter 14 - Two Difficult Tasks


"If performance appraisal is difficult, interviewing is just about impossible."

Purpose of an interview:

  • Select a good performer
  • Educate him as to who you and the company are
  • Determine if a mutual match exists
  • Sell him on the job

Chapter 15 - Compensation as Task-Relevant Feedback

"Money has significance at all levels of Maslow's motivation hierarchy."

Chapter 16 - Why Training Is the Boss's Job

"A manager generally has two ways to raise the level of individual performance of his subordinates: by increasing motivation, the desire of each person to do his job well, and by increasing individual capability, which is where training comes in. [...] Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform."

"Training should be a process, not an event."