Are you focused on efficiency or effectiveness?

In a world of never-ending To-Do lists, I often look at my list of tasks, select one and jump into my work. Occasionally, however, I remind myself to look through the items on my list and see where I am investing my time and energy. As I step back, I ask myself if I’m choosing wisely on what I’m working on and if I’m getting the desired results. Another way to say that is am I being an efficient employee or an effective employee? They are different and one of them is more important than the other.

Let’s take a look at the definitions for both of those words.

  • Efficient is doing things in an optimal way. E.g. the fastest way or the least expensive way. (Wally is the most efficient person for that task, he can complete it in 20 minutes.)
  • Effective is doing the right things and looks at the results of your work.  (Wally effectively completed the sales report so we all know we are on track this month.)

Peter Drucker, a management consultant and writer said, “Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.” So, while both efficiency and effectiveness are important, one must prioritize effectiveness above efficiency. You can be efficient at various tasks all day long, but if there is little value in the tasks you are completing, you are wasting time and being ineffective.

Ideally, you prioritize your work with what is going to help the organization be most effective. What is going to help deliver the best results to our clients? Once that is determined, you can work effectively. You can also strive to increase the efficiency of that work. It should be noted, that when you are working on something new, you likely won’t be the most efficient. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable work and something you should continue working on.  It just means you’ve got room to improve. Cross-training would be an example of this. A new employee may not be the most efficient as they start a new task, but allowing them the opportunity to cross-train is essential for building knowledge in that new employee and will free up the more experienced employee to do what only he can do!

A caution worth noting is that when you become more efficient in your work, you may find yourself with a little “extra” time on your hands. When you look for how to use that time, be sure you are wisely managing your time with an effective task and not finding yourself doing pet projects or tasks that bring little value to you or the team.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and look at your To-Do list this week – analyze it a bit. Are you doing work that will make a difference? Do you need to challenge yourself and the items on your To-Do list to keep leading effectively?

Keep leading the Interstates way!


Doug Post, Interstates Engineering President


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