Efficiency is “doing things right”. Effectiveness is “doing the right things”. Productivity entails both – doing the right thing in the right way. Excelerated Productivity comes when you improve both efficiency and effectiveness.
The Lioness And The Vixen
“A Lioness and a Vixen were talking together about their young, as mothers will, and saying how healthy and well-grown they were, and what beautiful coats they had, and how they were the image of their parents.
‘My litter of cubs is a joy to see,’ said the Fox; and then she added, rather maliciously, ‘But I notice you never have more than one.’
‘No,’ said the Lioness grimly, ‘but that one’s a lion.'” (1)
Becoming Effective And Efficient
This Aesop fable comes with the moral “quality over quantity”. (I leave it to you to decide if one lion has more “quality” than a litter of foxes.) But we can also read it in terms of efficiency – the lioness had only one baby – and effectiveness – that baby was a lion!
In our daily tasks and chores and in our jobs, you and I generally have certain ways we approach our work. You also have BIG goals that you want to achieve. The way we approach our chores and our work and the activities to reach our goals can vary. When we examine how we do these things, we may find that there are better or faster or easier ways. We can become more efficient and more effective. And when we improve effectiveness and efficiency, we Excelerate productivity.
Efficient Or Effective – What’s The Difference?
If you are efficient, you are getting the most out of your time and effort. You don’t waste either. You produce results quickly. As the saying goes, “you are doing things right.”
When you are effective, you are getting high-quality results. You are, as they say, “doing the right things.” Ask yourself, “Am I getting the desired outcome from my efforts?” If your answer is “yes”, you are being effective. But if you answer “no”, you are not effective. [Avital]
Efficiency and effectiveness are different but connected. Of course, you could be operating both efficiently and effectively. Or you can be efficient and yet be ineffective. However, when you are inefficient, it is difficult to be effective. And you could be inefficient and ineffective, in which case, a small change may provide big improvements. So, what does being ineffective or inefficient look like?
Inefficiency And Ineffectiveness
Inefficiency is using more time and / or energy to perform a task that could be done with less. You might be using more steps than necessary when you are doing a specific job. Or you might be taking the steps in sequence, one after the other, when some steps could be done simultaneously. Either of these make the task longer than it has to be. You might be distracted, not focusing on the task at hand, thus taking longer than necessary.
Then there’s ineffectiveness. To be ineffective is “doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” [Drucker] Stephen Covey provides an illustration of a team of workers, chopping a way through a dense jungle. Their machetes are sharp and they are efficiently hacking a path. Then the leader of the group climbs a tree, surveys the surroundings, and yells out, “Wrong jungle!” “Shut up,” the workers respond. “We’re making progress!” [Covey]
What issues do inefficiency and ineffectiveness cause? You use more time and effort, even if you’re effective. And it wastes time and effort if you are not effective.
Productivity may be measured as inputs and outputs where input = time + energy and output = all the tasks and activities you complete [PlanPlus Blog]
It is the culmination of being efficient and effective. In fact, we could use this equation to represent the relationship: Productivity = Efficiency + Effectiveness. The more of either you can provide, the greater becomes your productivity.
You must be both efficient and effective to be productive. Someone who is efficient but not effective (not doing the right things) is not productive. And if one is not efficient, that person is neither effective nor productive.
What is the benefit of being productive? If you improve your productivity, you get more done in less time and your work is of higher quality.
Improving Efficiency, Effectiveness, And Productivity
According to the formula, Productivity = Efficiency + Effectiveness, if you improve either efficiency or effectiveness, productivity improves. “Proper assessment and organization of inputs leads to greater effectiveness, and proper organization of outputs leads to greater efficiency.” [PlanPlus Blog]
To improve efficiency, use routines so you approach a given task the same way each time. Then examine the routine to see if there are extraneous steps or if there are steps that could be combined. To improve effectiveness, practice to sharpen the skills used to perform the task in question.
Example – Inefficiency / Efficiency
For example, I made a list of the steps I used to go through when I wash dishes.
- Run water until it gets hot.
- Rinse dishes to go in the dishwasher.
- Load dishes in the dishwasher.
- Fill the sink with hot water and add dishwashing liquid.
- Place dishes to be washed into the water.
- Get a clean dish cloth.
- Wash the dishes.
I suspect you can see that this is an inefficient procedure. So did I, once I paid attention to all the steps. I decided to combine several of the steps and came up with a more efficient way:
- While water is running to heat up, rinse the dishes and load them into the dishwasher.
- When the water is hot, add dishwashing liquid and fill the sink. While the sink is filling, add the dishes to be washed and get a clean dish cloth.
- Wash the dishes.
Example – Ineffective / Effective
There were more than 40 buggy whip companies in Westfield, MA in the late 19th century. Today there is one. (2) Most of these companies were doubtless efficient in the production of their product. However, they failed to see the changes coming in their industry with the advent of the automobile. They were efficient but not effective.
Some companies, such as Timken, saw the changes that were coming. Timken made bearings for the carriage industry. Today, they are a global company, providing engineered bearings and other power transmission products. (3) This was an effective response to changing conditions.
Bridge The Gap
As we have seen, when you improve efficiency and effectiveness, you become more productive. It is in part a matter of paying attention. As Massimo Pigliucci writes: “[N]othing becomes better by being done inattentively. Being distracted when we drive, or take an exam, or converse with others does not improve our driving, chances of passing the exam, or the quality of our conversation.” [Pigliucci] Our effectiveness and efficiency suffer.
But when you pay attention to improving your efficiency and your effectiveness, you gain a sense of inner calm knowing that you are bridging the gap between who you are now and who you are at your best. And that is embracing the Excelerated Life™!
Excelerated Productivity™ — improving efficiency and effectiveness — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being and a life of meaning, purpose and service.
(1) Aesop’s Fables: The Lioness and the Vixen as presented on the Infoplease website at https://www.infoplease.com/primary-sources/fables-fairytales/aesops-fables/aesops-fables-16
(2) Information from The Westfield Whip website at https://www.westfieldwhip.com/
(3) Information from the Timken Company website at https://www.timken.com/products/
Avital, Oded. “Effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity – what do they mean?.” Knowmail. Knowmail, September 4, 2015. Web. June 15, 2020.
Covey, Stephen R. The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.
Drucker, Peter F. “Managing for Business Effectiveness.” Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School Publishing, May 1963. Web. June 18, 2020.
Pigliucci, Massimo and Gregory Lopez. A Handbook For Stoics: How To Thrive In A World Out Of Your Control. New York: The Experiment, LLC, 2019.
PlanPlus Blog. “Productivity, Effectiveness, Efficiency… What is the Difference?.” PlanPlus Online. PlanPlus Software, a Trademark of Complete XRM, Inc., . Web. June 15, 2020.