What Managers Do? (As Inspired by Andy Grove)

Manager’s output = Output of his organization + organization under his influence

Managers do management. And the purpose of management is of course to increase the organization's output.

I have this philosophy about what a manager/leader should be. A manager should be a ‘multiplier’ for the team instead of just a contributor, an ‘addition’. If the collective impact score of the team is 12, a good 3x multiplier manager will triple the score to 36. Imagine if the manager is only focusing on doing just another contributor work, as an ‘addition’. Even if he performs by 10, the output of the team will only be 22.

In order for him to thrive as a multiplier, of course he needs to be strategic. And it comes from understanding the leveraging activity of a manager.

Let’s start by analyzing my daily activity here:

List of daily activities category:

  1. Information-gathering
  2. Information-sharing
  3. Nudge (influencing decision)
  4. Decision-making
  5. Learning

We can see that information-gathering is a very dominant activity. It sounds lame but information-gathering is very important. All other activities — making decisions, conveying information, nudging— all influenced by the depth of understanding.

But we need to balance the absorption of information here. Too much, unmanaged, will get us drown in context. Too few will lead to an unjustified decision. So the art is to absorb as much high-quality information as possible and manage the knowledge.

What kind of information, and how?

According to Andy:

Information most useful to me.. (for) all managers, comes from quick, often casual verbal exchange.. more timely the information, more valuable it is

Of course, it is. The organization moves from one decision to another. And we move by tackling the existing and current problems, not the future. A piece of timely information will be essential to make short-term decisions.

But there’s a catch.

There’s a hierarchy of information. Verbally conveyed information is valuable, but sketchy, bias, and sometimes inaccurate, just like a newspaper headline. It’s short, hyperbolic, and just enough as a signal for you to be interested. You need to gather a lot of information to verify. This side, those sides, and from one report to another.

And long-term, bird-eye view information, is important too. It’s more justified to affect a team-wide change based on information that statistically significant.

Prioritizing Work, Doing Leverage

The art of management lies in the capacity to select from the many activities of seemingly comparable significance the one or two or three that provide leverage well beyond the others and concentrate on them

After all that information-gathering, we still have a lot of other activities. And choosing the most important one is hard. Here’s the formula from Andy on how to maintain a manager’s output performance:

Output = (Leverage X Activity) + (Leverage X Activity) + …

Leverage is the impact of the particular work. Activity is the task itself

This measurement can help to improve the output by this conjecture:

  1. A lot of leverage but few activities, hence increase the activity
  2. A lot of activities but low leverage, hence increase the leverage
  3. A lot of activities spread but still small impact, hence move from a low leverage activity to a high leverage activity

And to understand this impact, Leverage can be divided into three:

  1. When a work will impact a lot of people. For example, a presentation for a big meeting; a financial report of the company. Timeliness is important here
  2. When a work, although short and small, is impacting people for a long time. For example, setting up a work management process
  3. A specialist work that will impact a lot of people. For example, price setting will impact the sales output

Picking the right leveraging activities is the key to an impact.

Let’s have an exercise. If you have these to-do lists on your plan, how will you do it?

a. Prepare deck for project launch

b. Write a weekly report for managerial team

c. Meeting with internal team for project grooming

d. Meeting with the business regarding project retrospective

e. One-on-one with a lead from another team

f. Writing for a 15-day writing challenge

g. Mentoring that cheeky but bright and pleasant young talent



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