Managing all business executives spend much, if not all, of their time on the problems of short-run economic performance. They concern themselves with costs and pricing, with scheduling and selling, with quality control and customer service, with purchasing and training. Furthermore, the vast array of tools and techniques available to the modern manager deal to a great extent with managing today’s business for today’s and tomorrow’s economic performance. This is the subject matter of 90 out of any 100 books in the business library, and (conservatively) of 90 out of any 100 reports and studies produced within businesses.

Despite all this attention, few managers I know are greatly impressed with their own performance in this work. They want to know how to organize for the task; how to tell the important from the time-wasting, the potentially effective from the merely frustrating. Despite the flood of data and reports threatening to inundate the manager today, he gets only the vaguest generalities. Such banalities as “low costs” or “high profit margins” are bandied about as answers to the question: What really determines economic performance and results in this particular business that I work

Even in the boom times of a “seller’s market,” managing for economic performance tends to be a source of constant frustration. And as soon as times return to normal and markets become competitive again, managing for economic performance tends to generate such confusion, pressure, and anxiety that the decisions made are most unlikely to be the right ones, even for short-run results, let alone for the company’s future.