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High Output Management - Andy Grove

Buch-Review - Hannes Kleist - 09.09.2018

High Output Management

The 1983 management classic “High Output Management” by Intel CEO Andi Grove.

It was a bit surprising that 35 years later this is still a really good read with tons of good advice you would find in current management books like Work Rules!.

But what struck me was, that 90% of companies today do not even measure up to those standards.


The motto I’m advocating is “Let chaos reign, then rein in chaos.” The output of a manager is the output of the organizational units under his or her supervision or influence.


A manager’s skills and knowledge are only valuable if she uses them to get more leverage from her people.

Try not to do “work” yourself. Delegate and leverage.

Only two ways in which a manager can impact an employee’s output: motivation and training.

And perhaps selecting the employee in the first place

In order to build anything great, you have to be an optimist, because by definition you are trying to do something that most people would consider impossible.

When your parents think your startup is a great idea, your idea is crap

The Peter Principle is a concept in management theory in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities related to the intended role. Thus, “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.”

That’s why we consider the skills of a potential promotee on his new role rather than his old.

Part II: Management is a Team Game

To prepare and justify a capital spending request, people go through a lot of soul-searching analysis and juggling, and it is this mental exercise that is valuable.

I found that helpful as well. We ask some basic business plan questions to challenge peoples thought process.

A key point about a one-on-one: It should be regarded as the subordinate’s meeting, with its agenda and tone set by him.

Word! Although we often get into a general status-update… Need to work on that.

How is this done? By applying Grove’s Principle of Didactic Management, “Ask one more question!”

Good advise. When you feel that the topic has not been addressed fully, ask another question to keep the flow. Some tips:

  1. Ask how everyone related to issue is feeling and what drives their behavior. 90% of issues are people issues.
  2. Ask what we would do different next time a similar situation pops up. Ask for “greenfield”.

At Intel, anyway, we managers get a little more obsolete every day.

Ideally, a manager could travel the world and run his team via OKRs and 1:1s.

One of the reasons why people are reluctant to come out with an opinion in the presence of their peers is the fear of going against the group by stating an opinion that is different from that of the group. Consequently, the group as a whole wanders around for a while, feeling each other out, waiting for a consensus to develop before anyone risks taking a position. If and when a group consensus emerges, one of the members will state it as a group opinion (“ I think our position seems to be…”), not as a personal position. After a weak statement of the group position, if the rest of the mob buys in, the position becomes more solid and is restated more forcefully.

A real risk: “Group think”. As a leader it’s your responsibility to challenge a weak position. Start by saying “Let me play devils advocate here…” to take the string off.

When the manager has guided, coached, and prodded the group along has no choice but to make a decision himself. If the decision-making process has proceeded correctly up to this point, the senior manager will be making the decision having had the full benefit of free discussion wherein all points of view, facts, opinions, and judgments were aired without position-power prejudice. The criterion to follow is this: don’t push for a decision prematurely. Make sure you have heard and considered the real issues rather than the superficial comments that often dominate the early part of a meeting. But if you feel that you have already heard everything, that all sides of the issue have been raised, it is time to push for a consensus-and failing that, to step in and make a decision. One of the manager’s key tasks is to settle six important questions in advance:

  • 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? The one thing an MBO system should provide par excellence is focus.

Yeah. It’s about more about the process and the focus it provides. Because you spent time with it, it signals priorities.

Part IV: The Players

“What I can be, I must be.”

Oh, I love that.

When the need to stretch is not spontaneous, management needs to create an environment to foster it. In an MBO system, for example, objectives should be set at a point high enough so that even if the individual (or organization) pushes himself hard, he will still only have a fifty-fifty chance of making them.

Not sure individual goals are helpful in our team driven environment.

We then initiated a program in which each building’s upkeep was periodically scored by a resident senior manager, dubbed a “building czar.” The condition of all of them dramatically improved almost immediately. Nothing else was done; people

Yeah. Just putting a spotlight on something will add focus and emphasis on a daily basis.

Micromanagement vs. Delegation and autonomy

The next part is pure brilliance and needs no explanation.

I have long been struggling between micromanaging a team or subordinate and giving full autonomy.

My mistake: I was looking at the person as the smallest unit to judge the degree of micromanagement vs. autonomy.

The issue: That is one level too high

Some researchers in this field argue that there is a fundamental variable that tells you what the best management style is in a particular situation. That variable is the task-relevant maturity (TRM) of the subordinates, which is a combination of the degree of their achievement orientation and readiness to take responsibility, as well as their education, training, and experience. We confused the manager’s general competence and maturity with his task-relevant maturity. Specifically, when the TRM is low, the most effective approach is one that offers very precise and detailed instructions, wherein the supervisor tells the subordinate what needs to be done, when, and how: in other As the TRM of the subordinate grows, the most effective style moves from the structured to one more given to communication, emotional support, and encouragement, in which the manager pays more attention to the subordinate as an individual than to the task at hand. As the TRM becomes even greater,

Performance review

Finally, as you review a manager, should you be judging his performance or the performance of the group under his supervision?

I do both. Over a longer time the first becomes less important than the second.

One big pitfall to be avoided is the “potential trap.” At all times you should force yourself to assess performance, not potential.

Yeah. I make that mistake a lot.

You may possess seven truths about his performance, but if his capacity is only four, at best you’ll waste your breath on the other three. The purpose of the review is not to cleanse your system of all the truths you may have observed about your subordinate, but to improve his performance.

We should focus our performance review on the top 3 things. Not all 17.

A poor performer has a strong tendency to ignore his problem. Here a manager needs facts and examples so that he can demonstrate its reality. Progress of some sort is made when the subordinate actively denies the existence of a problem rather than ignoring it passively, as before. Evidence can overcome resistance here as well, and we enter the third stage, when the subordinate admits that there is a problem, but maintains it is not his problem.

I make notes all the times of example where I see undesirable behaviour.

Instead he will blame others, a standard defense mechanism. He has to take the biggest step: namely assuming responsibility. It is the reviewer’s job to get the subordinate to move through all of the stages to that of assuming responsibility, though finding the solution should be a shared task.

Talking a person out of quitting

Drop what you are doing. Sit him down and ask him why he is quitting. Let him talk-don’t argue about anything with him. Believe me, he’s rehearsed his speech countless times during more than one sleepless night. After he’s finished going through all his reasons for wanting to leave (they won’t be good ones), ask him more questions. Make him talk, because

Talking about firing people

Instead, I think management ought to face up to its own error in judgment and take forthright and deliberate steps to place the person into a job he can do. Management should also support the employee in the face of the embarrassment that he is likely to feel. If recycling is done openly, all will be pleasantly surprised how short-lived that embarrassment will be.


on the other hand, strongly believe that the manager should do it himself. it is clear that the who of the training is you, the manager. At Intel we distinguish between two different training tasks. The first task is teaching new members of our organization the skills needed to perform their jobs. The second task is teaching new ideas, principles, or skills to the present members of our organization.

Yeah, I will start training people more.

Buy the book on amazon


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Hannes Kleist
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