Book Review: High Output Management
Andrew Grove’s ‘High Output Management’ has been described as a legendary business book focusing on how to manage teams to get peak performance. London Business Board member Andy Roland-Price sees whether it lives up to its hype.
Dominic Cummings has a knack for making headlines, not least with his job advert for misfits and weirdos. Shortly after this furore, he reportedly told the civil service to read Andrew Grove’s 'High Output Management' book. This intrigued me. Would this book provide an insight into arguably the UK’s most influential misfit? There was only one way to find out.
Being of a certain generation growing up far away from Silicon Valley, I had never heard of Andrew Grove so a few words on him. He participated in the founding of Intel, became its president in 1979 and then CEO in 1987. He was Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1997 before stepping down as CEO a year later. He retired as chairman of the Intel board in 2004.
In his Introduction to HOM he outlines how Intel initially dominated the memory chip market but, under pressure from Japanese competitors, pivoted to the microprocessor business. They rode the personal computing wave and grew to become the largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world. He somehow found the time to write HOM in the mid-eighties and it’s plain to see how his views have been shaped by this journey.
Grove argues that a manager should view themselves as a micro CEO looking after their own area. It does not matter whether the area encompasses just yourself or very large teams. Processes need to be managed, issues identified and fixed, improvements made.
HOM is a collection of the principles that Grove learnt over 20 years as a manager to do this. They rely heavily on manufacturing concepts; the analogue that you should run your managerial processes like a well-oiled factory runs throughout the book. These include batching similar items together, focussing on outputs and how to get the best out of your team.
The book is well written and it is easy to understand it’s success and longevity; it has stood the test of time with a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon. If you’re interested in either improving the processes that you look after in or man management then reading this book is time well spent.
I’m probably no closer to understanding Dominic Cummings but, if he is an ardent supporter of books like HOM, then I suspect he is not quite the misfit that he is portrayed as.