High Output Management

Factories are straightforward enough. They take in raw material and process it into finished products. Less clear are the gritty details: what material should be purchased, and when? Where can automation simplify processing? How should products be promoted and sold? Delivered to market? Lacking ready answers, we entrust managers with hiring, training, and motivating people to figure them out.

High Output Management turns management itself into a production process. From running meetings to organizational structure, longtime Intel CEO Andy Grove applies the same rigor of the “actual” business (chip production) to the management tasks that enable it. Inputs, outputs, and processes are identified. Measurements are taken, experiments proposed, mistakes recognized, and adjustments made. Alternating between the management challenges facing a fictional Breakfast Factory and his own experiences at Intel, Grove breaks management down into its constituent challenges and offers managers mental models for framing and overcoming them.

High Output Management isn’t a step-by-step handbook, instead providing the manager with general tools to apply as she sees fit. The lack of specific prescriptions lets Grove cover considerable ground in admirably few words, and though some of its examples are dated (when did you last bring transparencies to a presentation?), its flexibility means the book is as relevant today as it was 35 years ago.

Ultimately, High Output Management distills considerable thought into a concise, approachable read. While much of its content will feel familiar to professional managers three decades on, the essence of concepts that fill full-length management books are covered here in two or three. Before committing to the next management book from your favorite “must read” list, find yourself a copy of High Output Management. If you only make it through one book this afternoon, well, you could do a lot worse!