“The Gods can see them.”
The greatest sculptor of ancient Greece, Phidias, around 440 bc made the statues that to this day, 2,400 years later, still stand on the roof of the Parthenon in Athens. When Phidias submitted his bill, the city accountant of Athens refused to pay it. “These statues stand on the roof of the temple, and on the highest hill in Athens. Nobody can see anything but their fronts. Yet, you have charged us for sculpturing them in the round, that is, for doing their backsides, which nobody can see.” “You are wrong,” Phidias retorted. “The Gods can see them.”
Whenever people ask me which of my books 1 consider the best, I smile and say, “The next.” I do not, however, mean it as a joke. 1 mean it the way Verdi meant it when he talked of writing an opera at eighty in the pursuit of a perfection that had always eluded him. Though I am older now than Verdi was when he wrote Falstaff, I am still thinking and working on two additional books, each of which, I hope, will be better than any of my earlier ones, will be more important, and will come a little closer to excellence.
A decision, to be effective, needs to satisfy the boundary conditions.
A decision process requires clear specifications as to what the decision has to accomplish. What are the objectives the decision has to reach? In science these are known as “boundary conditions.” A decision, to be effective, needs to be adequate to its purpose. The more concisely and clearly boundary conditions are stated, the greater the likelihood that the decision will indeed be an effective one and will accomplish what it set out to do. Conversely, any serious shortfall in defining these boundary conditions is almost certain to make a decision ineffectual, no matter how brilliant it may seem.
“What is the minimum needed to resolve this problem?” is the form in which the boundary conditions are usually probed. “Can our needs be satisfied,” Alfred P. Sloan presumably asked himself when he took command of General Motors in 1922, “by removing the autonomy of the division heads?” His answer was clearly in the negative. The boundary conditions of his problem demanded strength and responsibility in the chief operating positions. This was needed as much as control at the center and unity. The boundary conditions demanded a solution to a problem of structure, rather than an accommodation among personalities. And this, in turn, made his solution last.
Harmonize the Immediate Long-range Future
A manager must, so to speak, keep his nose to the grindstone while lifting his eyes to the hills-quite an acrobat feat.
A manager has two specific tasks. The first is creation of a true whole that is larger than the sum of its parts, a productive e more than the sum of the resources put into it. The second specific task of the manager is to harmonize in every decision and actions the requirements of the immediate and of the long-range future. A manager cannot sacrifice either without endangering the enterprise.
If a manager does not take care of the next hundred days, there will be no next hundred years. Whatever the manager does should be sound in expediency as well as in basic long-range objective and principle. And where he cannot harmonize the two time dimensions, he must at least balance hem. He must calculate the sacrifice he imposes on the long-range future of the enterprise to protect its immediate interests, or the sacrifice he makes today for he sake of tomorrow. He must limit either sacrifice as much as possible. And he must repair as soon as possible the damage it inflicts He lives and acts in two time dimensions, and is responsible for the performance of the whole enterprise and of his own component in it.
Misdirection by Specialization
“I am building a cathedral.”
An old story tells of three stonecutters who were asked what they were doing. The first replied, “I am making a living.” The second kept on hammering while he said, “I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire country.” The third one looked up with a visionary gleam in his eyes and said, “I am building a cathedral.” The third man is, of course, the true manager. The first man knows what he wants to get out of the work and manages to do so. He is likely to give a “fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. But he is not a manager and will never be one. It is the second man who is a problem. Workmanship is essential: in fact, an organization demoralizes if it does not demand of its members the highest workmanship they are capable of. But there is always a danger that the true workman, the true professional, will believe that he is accomplishing something when m effect he is just polishing stones or collecting footnotes. Workmanship must be encouraged in the business enterprise. But it must always be related to the needs of the whole.