When I was still at High School my Dad explained to me the difference between efficient and effective. Or in plain English, doing things right compared to doing the right things. I could see value in both and debated about what is better. It took me some time and a fairly extreme example to understand the importance of the distinction.
These days lean manufacturing, lean thinking, and lean approaches are the holy grail. Since Toyota became the standard in efficiency there are few organisations that don’t follow that herd. And boy, there are some amazing savings to be made. Having the right structure in place and everybody knows what they should be doing it is like cogs and gears churning along at full steam.
Albeit, there is a small but very important assumption in all of that. Doing the right thing.
You can have the most efficient filing system including tagging every item correctly and finding what you need to in no time. All of this is moot if the content is rubbish or there is no purpose behind the filing system. Or imagine what is better having the gift of most effective writing or the gift of composing the most brilliant novels? It depends you may say if you work for a notary or the entertainment industry.
And that’s exactly my point. With all the efficiency we are looking to gain, we shall not forget to ensure we are doing the right thing first. Assume you have only a certain amount of energy or time towards either being efficient or effective. Spending all that time or energy on efficiency you will find the best way to solve that puzzle. Spending it on effectiveness you decide which puzzle is worth solving.
That is also in my opinion the main difference between a manager and a leader. A manager has an objective and finds the most efficient way to deploy his resources in meeting or exceeding this objective. A leader identifies objectives (or strategic goals) and tasks the managers appropriately.
Do I have a clear objective?
Yes -> focus on efficiency = doing it right
No -> identify your objectives = doing the right things