Is Efficiency Truly Efficient?

Ever wonder if efficiency is all that it’s cracked up to be? 


Everyone should because efficiency can be a detriment to any business.  At first, it would seem counter intuitive to make such a statement.  We’ve all seen it – time and energy directed at creating a highly efficient process or system only to fail.  Everything about the project was efficiently done by everyone involved.

Why Did It Fail?

Efficient does not equate to effectiveness.  Efficiency equates to executing tasks with the least amount of time, energy and resources expended.  Effectiveness means achieving the desired results.  They may or may not work hand in hand.

An individual can efficiently execute a task but if it’s the wrong task, what’s the result?  Ineffectiveness.

How can you tell the difference?

Results.  What are your desired results? 

If the desired result is increasing the profit margin, how efficient is it if a manager efficiently reduces the per unit cost of a product being phased out in a few months as opposed to using that time and energy to reduce the per unit costs of the items coming on stream?  Both can be efficiently done but at what cost? 

Wouldn’t time be better spent looking to profits on future products rather than in the area of obsolescence? 

Some people get so caught up in the efficiency factor and forget the other part of the equation, effectiveness.

Is It Worth It?

Where the time is being spent needs to fit logically with current plans.  Seems obvious but when people are in the thick of work every day, the obvious sometimes becomes obscured.

Using a golfing analogy, let’s say that a golfer bogeys a hole.  Instead of playing the next hole and continuing with the game, the golfer returns to the tee  of the hole just bogeyed and starts again trying to land a birdie.  Would we expect that?  Golfers stay focused on the big picture – finishing the game with the best possible score.  After all, the next few holes might just result in multiple birdies.!   Apply the same principles to every day work – keep your eye moving forward and making the most of efficiency for the future.

Next time you are starting to go down the efficiency road, ask the important question:  Is the best use of my time, resources and energy to meet current objectives?

Lorraine Arams


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