There seems to be this “faux” discussionÂ regarding the words “effectiveness” and “efficiency.”Â People speak of the terms as though they are mutually exclusive.Â I have heard gurus state that leaders are effective with people whereas managers are efficient with things.Â Is this true?
The implications being that you cannot be both.
I think in many ways the question of whether one is effective or one is efficient is a false choice.Â I sometimes think that those who aspire or claim to be leaders came up with this clichÃ© of being effective to elevate themselves over mere managers and vice versa.Â The truth is, to the extent that a schmuck like me can claim a truth, you must be both.
And these two terms are not mutually exclusive.Â
The challenge lies in how to be both effective and efficient.Â I believe an appropriate analogy is travel.Â To get to Hawaii from Boston, it would be nice to first make a plan.Â The effectiveness of that plan is whether you succeed in getting from Boston to Hawaii.Â Simple, no.Â The planâ€™s efficiency comes in how well the travel is planned.Â If nothing else, efficiency is in the execution and effectiveness is the end result.Â Do you agree?
And we must be both.
A profound thinker on the subject of effectiveness and efficiency is Dr. Stephen Covey (my guru on the mountain).Â Â I believe Dr. Coveyâ€™s Quadrant II principle deals, in part, with this subject.Â Essentially, Dr. Covey segregates all activities to one of four quadrants on a sliding scale of urgency on one axis and importance on the other axis.Â All activities range from not urgent to urgent.Â All activities are simultaneously on the range from not important to important.
Quadrant I represent activities that are urgent and important.Â Quadrant II is not urgent but important.Â Quadrant III is urgent but not important.Â Quadrant IV is not urgent and not important (sounds like line from the movie, “Kentucky Fried Movie”)
Quadrant I is easy; your boss wants the safety review of lastâ€™s week forklift operations by 3pm.Â Â That is urgent and important.Â Quadrant II is not so easy; the new training module will help you develop a much better safety program.Â You want to invest 20 hours to complete the module.Â The current safety program is okay, but 20 hours away is a lot of time.Â This is important but not so urgent, as no one has asked for it.
Quadrant III is probably easy.Â Â Someone from State Department of Labor is on line 1.Â This is urgent, it is a phone call, and all phone calls are urgent, right?Â Is it important, who knows?Â Quadrant IV is simple.Â It is lounging in the break room chatting about last nightâ€™s episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Unfortunately, most of us spend our times in Quadrant I and III.Â When we have had enough, we escape to quadrant IV.Â We go home and spend 3 hours watching TV or playing a video game before calling it a night.Â We go from one urgent task to another without regard to its importance.Â We are constantly reacting.
Quadrant I is what it is.Â You must react to what the boss wants.Â Quadrant III is sometimes unavoidable.Â That phone call, that page, and that email seem so important, and it is most definitely urgent.Â It wants to be answered now.Â How often have you stood in front of a customer service desk speaking with the retailer when the phone rings?Â He answers the phone and you are immediately relegated to second place.Â How annoying.
Quadrant IV is a place to escape to where nothing gets done where you knowingly, or not, temporarily seek refuge from the stresses of life and work.
Quadrant II activities never press on you.Â It never demands to be done now or answered immediately.Â Yet, it is those activities that grow you, personally and professionally.Â Imagine if you “forced” yourself to make time to finish that 20 hour training module.Â Imagine you using that new knowledge to craft a more effective, more efficient safety program to replace theÂ one that is okay.
Imagine your value within your organization going up.Â You took steps to keep your organization ahead of the curve.Â An okay program becomes an obsolete program in presence of new knowledge and technology.Â But by investing extra, uncalled for time to improve a program that benefits the organization; you do the right thing.
Quadrant II is about doing the right thing.Â It is about being effective by investing in your personal and professional development.Â It is about being efficient in eliminating the vampiric Quadrant IV and saying, if not “no,” than “hold for a minute” to Quadrant III.
Quadrant I is what it is and you must respond if it is both urgent and important.Â But by reducing the time you spend with Quadrant III and IV activities, you gain the time to spend in Quadrant II.Â And therein lay your path to being more effective and efficiency in all you do.