6 principles of effectiveness

Wooden mannequins pushing puzzle pieces into the right placeIf efficiency is the economic use of human, psychological, and material resources, what is effectiveness?

Go ahead. Think about it. I’ll wait…

Like many of you, I find the Business Dictionary online to be a useful and oft utilized resource. Here’s how they define effectiveness:

The degree to which objectives are achieved and the extent to which targeted problems are solved. In contrast to efficiency, effectiveness is determined without reference to costs and, whereas efficiency means “doing the thing right,” effectiveness means “doing the right thing.”

Effectiveness is vision in action.

While managers are concerned with and focused on efficiency (and rightly so), leaders are focused on effectiveness. Yes, I know, all company and organizational systems must be efficient because productivity and profitability are critical to the life of the business or mission. But you have managers for the productivity side of things. They, if they’re doing their job, make certain things are being done right.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you. I risk sounding trite and like a motivational speaker, but I’ll do it anyway. Managers make certain that things are being done right but leaders make certain those managers and the people they manage are doing the right things. (Well, hey, if the Business dictionary can use the term I can, too.) There, I said it. Leaders focus on the target. They fixate on the vision and measure everything, I mean everything, by it. Whether you’re new to the job or a seasoned veteran, the biggest threat to your effectiveness as a leader is the past. The past holds processes that have been in place for a time, contains relationships that have interacted for a while, and carries with it the comfort and reassurance of the familiar.

Here are 6 principles of effectiveness to remember:

  1. You may have done it the way you’ve done it for as long as you’ve done it but you may not need to keep doing it the way you’ve done it. Is the task, report, process, or system vital? Why was it begun? Why has it continued? Why should you continue it?
  2. Effectiveness trumps efficiency when it comes to building morale. Laying bricks is one thing, building a cathedral is another. The effective use of efficiency is a powerful motivator. Let me say that another way. Associates, employees, staff members, and/or volunteers (in a nonprofit organization) just feel better about themselves and your company when they sense they are making progress.
  3. Before you can say, “Now we’re getting somewhere,” you need to actually be going somewhere. The objective is not today, it’s tomorrow.
  4. Busy-ness is not to be equated with business. Activity should never be confused with progress. Never. Productivity should never be measured solely in counting terms unless those counted things can be directly tied in to the vision.
  5. Do not waste resources on unattainable or unrelated goals. Having goals that stretch can be motivating and energizing. Having goals that are just unreasonable cause the onset of malaise because those who must carry them out begin to question your judgment and your connection with reality. If you articulate vision, and your managers understand their role in the structure, they soon become confused if activities and the goals that measure them are unrelated to the vision.
  6. Connect the dots. It may not always be apparent how this process fits with that vision. If you don’t know and if your managers don’t know, who should? You, of course. If a task, report, process, or activity does not fit somewhere in the gears of the vision, do you need to do it any more? Be ready to answer why they should do what. If you don’t know, find out. If there is no justifiable reason, then seriously challenge the need to continue it. This is where effectiveness breeds efficiency.

On Monday, I suggested you evaluate two systems within your company or organization. What did you find out? This is important. Exposure to information has a counter-productive effect unless one acts on it. So, really now, what did you find out? You’re the leader, lead.

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