“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker  

Efficiency has been pounded into us since grade school.

  • Keep your desk clean.
  • Finish your tests on-time.
  • Always have three sharpened pencils.
  • Let’s squeeze 7-8 classes into one day.

And the list goes on and on.

Even on the job, one is forced to comply to look busy, to fit as much ‘stuff’ into a workday as possible, to outshine your peers, and fly through your duties. It reminds me of a great song by Kevin Kline in the Sandra Boynton musical “Philadelphia Chickens” called ‘Busy Busy Busy’*:

We’re very very busy
And we’ve got a lot to do
And we haven’t got a minute
To explain it all to you
For on Sunday Monday Tuesday
There are people we must see
And on Wednesday Thursday Friday
We’re as busy as can be
With our most important meetings
And our most important calls
And we have to do so many things
And post them on the walls…

We have to hurry far away
And then we hurry near
And we have to hurry everywhere
And be both there and here
And we have to send out messages
By e-mail, phone, and fax
And we’re talking every minute
And we really can’t relax
And we think there is a reason
To be running neck-and-neck
And it must be quite important
But we don’t have time to check.

I’m not saying efficiency is bad, it’s just overrated. But effectiveness is the key to success. Just doing things will not deliver the requisite benefits — results are key in any endeavor. It’s what differentiates you from the chattel who worry about their job every day.

Is this you? I have to:

  • Do tons of work to show everyone I am the master of my domain.
  • Read, assess, and answer all of the 150 emails I receive every day.
  • Attend every meeting I’m invited to so I don’t miss anything.
  • Provide an audience to every person who comes into my office or passes by my cubicle.
  • Never make a mistake – so I double- and triple-check every thing I do.
  • Return every phone call, meet with every new prospect, and get on every project.
  • Do the safe/easy things – I can do them quickly and not worry about not delivering quantity.
  • “Push a lot of buttons to get results.”

Now, focus on being effective:

  • Out of the 150 emails I receive, what 10-20 are really important for my attention?
  • What meetings are really important? (usually none)
  • Setup specific times for open door policies and drive-by’s.
  • Who really is your key customer? What project will really deliver growth for the company?
  • I tackle those things which will deliver maximum results and not worry about getting many little things done.
  • How can I focus on the 20% which delivers the 80%?
  • “I can push THE button.”

What is the best reason for effectiveness?

It allows you to develop the confidence to take on new challenges, to push your envelope, and to not worry about failure. Because if you fail – you will just try again.

“Efficiency is making many things happen. Effectiveness is making IT happen.” – Rich Gee

How do you balance efficiency and effectiveness?

*This song was introduced to my by one of my favorite and dearest colleagues, Diane Senior. Thank you Diane, I still laugh listening to the CD — it so reminded us of our environment at that time.