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How to Find the Right Balance Between Efficiency and Effectiveness in Any Activity

When engaging in any kind of activity, people will quickly realize the benefits of performance efficiency. Businesses handle many different processes in their operations, and entrepreneurs value the ability to get these done efficiently because it ultimately increases revenue. In our personal endeavors, we find that accomplishing tasks quickly frees up more precious time each day.

Efficiency in this sense is like having a well-oiled machine; it’s easy for everybody to appreciate. But how that machine is used will also determine its effectiveness, and that can also impact overall results. Assessing this requires a big picture view, and that sort of perspective may be hard to find. How do you decide which of the two is more important in a given activity?

When efficiency matters

This Bill Gates quote underlines the value of efficiency for any organization: “hire a lazy person to do a difficult job…because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” This isn’t meant to extoll the virtues of being lazy. Instead, it recognizes the importance of lowering the difficulty level for business processes. In any company, people who hustle and exert a lot of effort in everything they do tend to be exceptional. By making staple processes simple to grasp and easy to execute, a business can target the least common denominator, so to speak. Thus, even in small details such as warehouse layout and storage, facilities carefully select heavy duty long span shelving so that pickers can easily access and load products. High-volume, routine tasks tend to yield the most value when streamlined in this way.

The case for being more effective

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When considering effectiveness, leaders have to compare results against stated objectives; this is why any large-scale undertaking will in turn require a high-level perspective. A marketing or sales campaign may need a few months before you have enough data to run the analysis. Thus, efforts towards improving effectiveness tend to be more rewarding when focused on core competencies – those aspects which create unique value and set you apart from the competition. For instance, you wouldn’t very be impressed if you consulted with a therapist who rushes through appointments and sends patients on their way with a prescription; they may be able to see a lot of patients every day, but is the treatment effective? For healthcare professionals in general, outcomes are everything; making patients better is their core competency, and that’s where leadership must exert the most effort to improve.

Finding balance

Naturally, businesses and individuals would both love to achieve a level of high efficiency and effectiveness in their endeavors. This means investing most of their efforts on activities which will contribute significantly towards their goals, while also identifying target areas for improved process efficiency. Unfortunately, many constraints – particularly time and finances – may apply; these can force you to decide and prioritize one over the other. A cyclical approach often ends up providing the right balance. Startups, for example, may want to aggressively pursue their core competencies in order to establish their effectiveness and build a loyal consumer base; after a period of growth, the same company could seek to trim costs and streamline their work in order to find financial stability.

Both efficiency and effectiveness are desirable in applications of any scale. Understanding the needs and restrictions of a given situation will help you strike the right balance and improve on both aspects to achieve the desired results.

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