Below are several highlighted quotes and nuggets of wisdom from Rumsfeld’s Rules. Some are his quotes, others are from those he encountered and/or read over the years. I recommend picking up a copy of the full book, but this is a great place to start.
Once you quit one thing, then you can quit something else, and pretty soon you’ll get good at being a quitter.
If you find yourself meandering aimlessly in a difficult spot, step back to get some perspective, slow down, and take a deep breath. And if you’re still feeling lost, face up to it, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
All generalizations are false—including this one.” The point here is that rules cannot be a substitute for judgment.
General Douglas MacArthur once said, “Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.
Whatever your position, reach out to those who know more than you do, and have been around longer than you have. Find those people. Listen carefully.
Humility and discretion are two valued qualities in an employee.
Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you have fouled up something, it’s best to tell the boss fast.
Disagreement is not disloyalty.
The act of calling a meeting about a problem can in some cases be confused with actually doing something.
Stubborn opposition to proposals often has no basis other than the complaining question, “Why wasn’t I consulted?”
those who write and speak clearly—free of jargon and cant—are most likely to be the ones who think clearly and are therefore indispensable for good decision-making and sound policy.
New ideas often receive a negative reaction at the outset, regardless of their value.
If everyone in the room seems convinced of the brilliance of an idea, it may be a sign that the organization would benefit from more dissent and debate.
Without the best people in place, the best ideas don’t matter.
prudent managers prune regularly.
A’s hire A’s. B’s hire C’s.
If you want to find out which managers are A’s and which are B’s, take a hard look at the teams that surround them.
What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
Many people have the ability to review something and make it better. Few are able to identify what is missing.
Some of the best ideas can come from the sparks and thoughts generated during lively discussions around a conference table or lunch conversation among people who have opposing views.
The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.
Strategy doesn’t begin at one point and end at another. It involves planning and evaluation, requiring trade-offs and decisions along the way. It takes work, thought, and time.
If you are working from your inbox, you are working on other people’s priorities.
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.
If you don’t know what your top three priorities are, you don’t have priorities.
Assumptions are often left unstated, it being taken for granted that everyone around a table knows what they are, when frequently that is not the case. The assumptions that are hidden or held subconsciously are the ones that often get you into trouble.
If the plan can be interpreted differently by those in your organization, it is likely your people will not all be working toward your goal in a well-coordinated effort.
What you measure improves.
By measuring or inspecting, you instinctively act and make decisions in ways that make you more likely to achieve the desired result.
The central paradox of planning is that no plan will be executed as originally conceived. There is always the challenge of the unexpected.
Planning done well allows for improvisation. It allows for an openness to being wrong.
good leaders understand the importance of not staying wedded to a course of action after new circumstances require a change.
Tell them what you know. Tell them what you don’t know. And only then, tell them what you think. And be sure you distinguish among them. —General Colin Powell
You can persuade a man to believe almost anything provided he is clever enough.
Insularity can breed “groupthink” and lead to unfounded conclusions and certainty.
Try not to let your expectations influence how you receive and process information. Be cautious of data or facts that track perfectly with your personal preferences or opinions.
how an individual copes with surprise in his or her personal life, in business, or in government can make the difference between success and failure.
more often than not surprises are the result of bureaucracies coping with too much information, rather than too little.
The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.
Surprise often arrives when one side assumes that the enemy or the competition thinks like it does and will do what it would be likely to do in a similar situation.
Sometimes surprise can be deployed to one’s advantage in order to shift the conversation and create a diversion.
Don’t “overcontrol” like a novice pilot. Stay loose enough from the flow that you can observe and calibrate.
Proper preparation prevents poor performance.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Preparing for events that have not happened and may never happen can be costly, but it is important for business leaders and senior managers to spend time thinking about potential problems that could confront them and how they might respond.
Mistakes will always be made, but the least we can do is try to make original mistakes, rather than repeating old ones.
In a crisis, then, a leader’s skills will be tested in managing the tempo as well as the nature of a particular response. The danger of acting too swiftly or not swiftly enough can be a challenge either way.
If you are not prepared to live with the fact that your actions may lead to failure, then you probably ought not to be in leadership.
Let your words be as few as will express the sense you wish to convey and above all let what you say be true. —Stonewall Jackson
If in writing it takes over thirty minutes to write the first two paragraphs, select another subject. —RAYMOND ARON
People respond in direct proportion to the extent you reach out to them. —Vice President Nelson Rockefeller
Don’t accept an inaccurate premise in a question. Rephrase it if necessary.
Emotion is what gets people interested and energized. But it is reason that sustains it. When making an argument, keep both in mind.
Credibility takes years to build, and one second to lose.
You are far better off being seen as not fully informed than as untruthful or evasive.
With the media in the Information Age, “off the record” doesn’t exist.
It would be a strategic error to assume that everyone in the press is seeking the truth. —General Pete Schoomaker
A lie travels halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on. —Mark Twain
if you work hard enough at something, you will get better at it.
Taking time to consider what the person across from you is thinking, what they want to achieve, what their goals are, what their concerns are, and what issues they face can put you in a considerably better position to achieve your own objectives.
Sometimes a match comes down to how much fuel you have left in your tank in the closing minutes. If you go hard at something from the outset with everything you have, you may exhaust yourself before accomplishing your goal.
You suffer disappointments, pick yourself up, pull up your socks, and move on.
If you want traction, you must first have friction. —Admiral Jim Ellis
If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less. —General Eric Shinseki
Leadership is by consent, not command. A leader must persuade.
Encouraging others to step up leads to a considerably more effective outcome.
Find out what people are working on, what their worries are, what they are wondering about, and what ideas they might have. Learning new things and forging new relationships takes time for a leader, but it is well worth it.
Trial and error are the essence of discovery. Your organization should be hospitable to both.
The most successful organizations create an environment that is hospitable to risk-taking, innovation, and creativity.
Reduce layers of management. They put distance between the top of an organization and the customers.
Lawyers are like beavers. They get in the middle of the stream and dam it up.
If you are in an organization and find lawyers making decisions instead of advising on decisions, then maybe you need to reduce their number.
Today’s technologies, with email and other forms of instant communication, can tempt leaders to try to micromanage a company’s activities.
Managers need to let the people in the line make decisions, make mistakes, and learn from them—just as many of them did to get where they are today.
Companies that make a practice of rewarding innovation are the ones that succeed.
The best leaders recognize that competition can make their organization better.
When your enemy is making mistakes, don’t stop him in the middle. —Napoleon Bonaparte
studying your competition can mean the difference between success and failure by providing advance clues of their potential innovations that could disrupt your efforts.
If you have a team of people who know each other, respect each other, and are fully prepared to tackle crises as they come, your organization is much more likely to weather those challenges.
A useful lesson for managers is to provide your troops guidance, but then step out of the way and let them do their jobs. If you’ve picked the right people, and trained them well, chances are they will succeed.
Senior executives would do well to be aware of their organization’s vulnerabilities, knowing how and where their competitors might exploit them.
The most motivated employees believe in the why of what they are doing.
A healthy corporate culture is one in which colleagues look out for each other and elevate the interest of the team above the individual, where they channel their individual talents into the service of their group’s broader goal.
The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships. —Abraham Lincoln
Remember you are not all that important. Your responsibilities are.
You never get in trouble for what you don’t say. —DICK CHENEY’S FAVORITE RULE, ATTRIBUTED TO SAM RAYBURN
The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. —Winston Churchill
Unless we understand the cause of a problem, we are unlikely to be able to solve it.
What one needs in life are the pessimism of intelligence and the optimism of will. —Ambassador André de Staercke
Having the courage to try and to risk mistakes distinguishes a leader from the rest.
We cannot ensure success, but we can deserve it. —George Washington