Effectiveness Meets Efficiency: How Successful Leaders Manage Both

Nearly five decades ago, Peter Drucker revolutionized the business field with the publication of his classic book, The Effective Executive. Three generations have applied his wisdom to our workplaces since. But as important as effectiveness is in any leadership role, Drucker left the "how" as an exercise for the student.

We've come up with some remarkably effective "hows" over the years. But increasingly, the hows and whys of business effectiveness have run face-first into the challenge of efficiency: not just doing the right things, but doing them right. Efficiency has always played a role in successful businesses, but in the last few decades, it has begun to overshadow effectiveness. Organizations can no longer remain laidback and loose with their practices. As the economy has taken repeated hits; as monopolies continue to fall to legislative restructuring; as businesses face greater employee independence due to technological evolution; and as backlash against coddled companies deemed "too big to fail" increases, corporate structures have had no choice but to become lean and many corporate dinosaurs who couldn't adapt have already been laid low by the asteroid of the new economy.

Management and workers no longer exist on completely different planes; they're separate ends of a continuum. Long-term strategic plans aren’t as effective, as execution often takes place in the moment, at the hands of whoever can wield it for the benefit of the company. The intersection of efficiency and effectiveness is where leaders and their teams come together to mine the ore of productivity, the raw material they jointly smelt into the precious metal of financial success. They must do the RIGHT things, and they must do them RIGHT.

Join me for a SalesforceLIVE Series Pass on January 21st at 11am PT to learn how you and your team obtain profitable, productive results by managing the intersection of two critical values: effectiveness and efficiency. Here’s a look at some of these ideas.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

Effectiveness is how successfully you do the job. It's doing the right things. It’s the most profitable distance between the goal and the execution. But it doesn't mean you're doing those things efficiently—i.e., in a fast or in a logical way.

Efficiency is the where the rubber hits the road. It means doing things right, using as few resources as possible. It’s the shortest distance between a goal and a checkmark.

Efficiency alone can also hurt you when ineffectively managed. It doesn't matter how fast you get to the gate for your flight to Oakland if you mishear the announcement and end up in Auckland (how this actually happened to someone I have no idea). Or if you have an effective method of tracking customer communication through Salesforce, but you were moving too quickly and failed to schedule a follow-up.

Achieving your goals in the most profitable AND most accurate way means merging effectiveness with efficiency.

The Evolution of the Executive

I think it's important to point out in this context something we often forget or simply refuse to recognize: Sometimes the person in the best position to do the right things right isn't a traditional “executive.” Most of us still think of executives as the upper strata of the business hierarchy, when by strict definition, an executive is anyone who executes strategy: a CEO, a front-line supervisor, a sales manager or even an untitled contributor from elsewhere in the organization. The only criteria that matter are that (a) the individual has authority to make significant decisions, and (b) spends his or her time producing value and/or managing people for the benefit of the organization.

In recent years, it has not only become more necessary to do the right things right, it has become easier. The rapid advance of IT technology and the spread of self-reliance and an attitude of independence has driven this trend. No longer are businesses (especially large ones) limited to the honeybee model, where everyone has a specific role and does one thing exactly the same way every time. Though specialization has its place, we no longer have to depend on a centralized business model to survive.

Ironically, the increased pace of business has made us more like the factors and facilitators of the old pre-telephony/telegraphy world, where decisions often had to be made on the spot because the home office was weeks or months away. Agility has required us to strip away layers of permission and bureaucracy. As business continues to accelerate and becomes ever more agile, I predict the day will come where our businesses will function more like the mason bee model. Individual workers are more solitary and autonomous and may not actually see each other on a regular basis, but they are securely linked to the whole. Work groups, rather than tight-knit teams, may become the order of the day.

In the future, we're each more likely to act as executives as necessity dictates, driven by the need to do the right things right at the right time, right away.

Learn more January 21st by joining me for SalesforceLIVE Series Pass webcast. Register today.

Laura Stack is an award-winning keynote speaker, noted authority on sales and team productivity, and bestselling author of seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Follow Laura on Twitter at @laurastack