CEO’s job is most disorganized

There is no job that needs to be organized as carefully and as systematically as that of the chief executive. The president’s day has only twenty-four hours like anybody else’s. And he certainly needs as many hours for sleep, rest and relaxation as a man burdened with lesser responsibilities. Only the most thorough study of the job can prevent total disorganization. Only the most systematic assignments of priorities can prevent the chief executive from frittering away his time and energy on the less important activities to the neglect of vital matters.

Yet, this careful study, this systematic organization of the job, is almost unknown. The result is that a great many chief executives in small business or large are disorganized, do indeed fritter away their time.

The only published study of the way chief executives actually spend their day has been made in Sweden. For several months a senior researcher and his associates clocked with a stop watch the working day of twelve leading Swedish industrialists. They noted the time spent on conversations, conferences, visits, telephone calls and so forth. They found that not one of the twelve executives was ever able to work uninterruptedly more than twenty minutes at a time at least not in the office. Only at home was there some chance of concentration. And the only one of the twelve who did not make important, long-range decisions “off the cuff” and sandwiched in between unimportant but long telephone calls and “crisis problems” was the executive who worked at home every morning for an hour and before coming to the office.

We have no such study of American chief executives. But we do need one to know that far too many let outside pressures and immediate emergencies dictate their day and the utilization of their efforts and energies.

Yet even the chief executive who lets outward pressures manage him is better than some. At least he spends his time on activities that are part of the chief executive’s job (albeit the lesser part). Much worse is the chief executive who wastes his time running a function of the business: the president who entertains customers when he should be working on the financial policy, the president who corrects details in engineering drawing and neglects a crying problem of mal-organization; the president who personally checks the expense account of every salesman etc. These men not only fail to accomplish their work; they also prevent the operating manager whose job they are doing from accomplishing his. And the numbers of chief executives who thus cling to the functional work in which they came up and with which they are familiar is uncomfortably large.

The problem is one of systematic conception and organization of the job. Without it even the ablest, most intelligent and best intentioned of chief executives will not succeed in doing his job and will be forced to manage according to pressures and emergencies. He, who rides the tiger, reaps the whirlwind. This thoroughly mixed metaphor is not a bad description of the fate of the chief executives who lets the pressure of the job manage himself of systematically studying, thinking through and organizing his job, work and time.

A distinguished French industrialist and student of management recently suggested that the chief executive’s job the biggest and the least explored area for the application of Scientific Management, and especially of “work simplification.” The first thing to be done would be study the work day of the chief executive with a stop watch.

This is certainly sound. But time study would be accompanied by hard thinking about what the job should be. What activities must the chief executives do him self? What activities can he leave to others and to whom? Above all: what activities come first? How mush time be set aside for them, no matter what crisis pressures there are?

The intuitive managers, in other words, cannot do the chief executive’s job, no matter how brilliant, how quick how perceptive he is. The job has to be planned. And the work has to be performed according to plan.