Two lumberjacks were competing in the finals of the annual lumberjack competition. One was older and more experienced, the other a younger and stronger lumberjack. The rules were simple: Whoever can fell the most trees in a day, wins.
The younger lumberjack, full of enthusiasm, immediately got to work. He could hear the other lumberjack in the distance. At regular intervals, the sounds of trees being felled would stop. The younger lumberjack grew even more confident, because he knew that meant the older lumberjack was taking a rest, while he had the stamina to keep going.
Finally, the competition was over. They announced the winner. The younger lumberjack was devastated to hear he had lost! “How can this be?” he asked the older lumberjack. “I heard you resting every hour, while I worked straight through the night!” The older lumberjack responded, “Every hour I took a break to sharpen my saw.”
We often get frustrated with our inability to be effective and efficient enough. But instead of developing ourselves, taking the time to learn and rejuvenate, we prefer to struggle with a blunt saw….
Effective and efficiency are common buzzwords. But what do they really mean? The best way I can think to explain it is this:
Being EFFECTIVE is about doing the right things, while being EFFICIENT is about doing things the right way.
Let’s say you hire a salesperson and task them with making cold calls. You could have someone hitting their target of 100 phone calls per week, which means they’re effective at doing their job. But what if they only close 2 deals from those 100 prospects? They’re effective, but they’re not efficient.
You could also be efficient, but not effective. There are companies (and people) who are constantly trying to improve efficiency, squeeze every ounce of productivity they can out of their budget and resources—but without considering the bigger picture. If you don’t step back to figure out the larger goals you’re pursuing, and make sure those goals are actually getting you where you want to go, efficiency is meaningless.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, it pays to think about which one you struggle with more. Are you smart about the way you do things and quick at getting tasks done, but find later that you’ve been focusing your effort on the wrong things? Or maybe you’re super effective at doing your job, but your tasks tend to take up too much time and waste too many resources?
If you’re sure where to start when it comes to improving your business’s efficiency and effectiveness, here are 3 Ptex Practical Pointers:
If you manage a team, make sure to do regular performance reviews. Avoid blaming or judging, but instead try to find out why an employee is struggling with either effectiveness or efficiency. Perhaps they need to delegate more, or their skills are not well matched to their responsibilities, they need some training in a specific area, or they’re not clear on what’s expected of them. You can’t begin to solve the issue unless you know the cause.
Implement accountability measures to keep your team on track with efficiency and effectiveness; these can include monthly sales goals, incentives, and weekly reports. For your own productivity, one great tip is to write down your top 3-4 “must-dos” for the day to prevent you from getting sidetracked. Another one is to set 25-minute timers for doing certain tasks, since research has found that working in 25-minute sprints with short breaks in between helps you be more efficient and productive.
3. Clear and Focused Work
If the goal—whether for yourself or for employees—isn’t clearly defined, or realistic, or measurable, then often efficiency and effectiveness suffer. Make sure your goals and tasks are well-defined, with clear desired outcomes.
Whether you’re struggling with efficiency or effectiveness, or both, remember: Don’t continue trying to cut down the tree using a blunt saw. Step away from the situation, figure out what’s going wrong, what needs to be improved, and implement changes that will make a real difference.
I’d love to hear from you on this. Which one do you struggle more with, and what strategies have worked for you?