We often hear about efficiencies, but we do not hear as much about effectiveness. Each year our organization works on increasing its efficiencies. Did you increase efficiencies by 5% (the minimum) or more is an annual question at rating time. My questions have always been, ‘What are we making efficient? Are we making effective use of our efficiencies improvement?’
Effectiveness or Efficiency
The standard definitions of effectiveness and efficiency are effectiveness is doing the right thing while efficiency is doing the thing right. Regarding the questions above, you can do the thing right and continue to improve the efficiencies of how to do it, but if the thing is not the right thing to do, it doesn’t matter how well (or how right) you do it. As an example, recently we had to make a change to the way we were making our decisions. Originally we had funds for mission-critical and general events. In March, we had to stop all general events and determine if we could curtail some of the mission-critical events. A few days after this determination, the person who was in charge of the general events met with me to discuss how to improve general events processes. I had to remind this person again that for the rest of the year, it did not matter how efficient the general events processes became because we will not be using them. To be effective for the rest of the year, she needed to turn her attention to the mission-critical events. Her efficiency improvement ideas may have been good for her program, but with her program closed down for the rest of the year, they were not effective to the overall success of the team.
7 questions to make effective decisions
1. Is this the best use of my time now?
2. Show I be doing this now?
3. What are the desired goals?
4. What will success look like when the goals are achieved?
5. What is a logical time frame for this success?
6. What will happen if I do not make this decision now?
7. Will this decision matter a year from now?
Which is better effective or efficient? The answer is not one or the other. For me, the answer is first and second. First, determine your goals and then decide how to be effective in reaching those goals. Then determine the most efficient means to reach those goals within your limitations – resources, budget, skill set, and time frame. In general you should always be looking at ways to become more efficient. However, do not become so tunnel-visioned in improving the efficiencies that you cannot see that being efficient in one area may no long be effective for the bigger picture.