Choosing Effectiveness over Efficiency


Does your organizational structure look like this?

In most places it probably does. At least that is the way the typical leader and almost every manager would diagram it. I did some contract work for an organization that looked like it. The person at the top, in that case a man, monitored and controlled everything. Everything.

The organization did run efficiently. He made sure that every effort, every decision, every project carried through with precise movements.  But it wasn’t very effective.

Curiously, the purpose of the organization was to develop and implement leadership seminars in countries outside North America that would teach leaders how to develop and release other leaders. The organization stated that they wanted to show others how to create capable people.

The problem was it did not do it in its home offices. No one was trained to do anything except follow orders. And no one was ever allowed independent thought or decision-making power. Everything was determined by a manual or a policy.

Efficiency was valued over effectiveness.

Take a look at the tagline at the top of this website. It says that you can “Extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work.” But I will be the first to tell you that this is neither simple nor easy for some people.

Developing capable people means letting go.

Letting go of power. Some of us just have to be in charge. We like being the man (or woman) in command. It makes us feel validated, fulfilled, and successful when we’re the central focus of the company. It may cut down on errors, at least for a time, but it also restricts productivity and seriously stifles creativity and innovation because all ideas must originate from and be connected to the person in charge.

Letting go of authority. This really troubles some leaders. They are fearful of releasing decision-making authority to others. Many don’t want to permit others to spend the company’s money or offer discounts to get a sale. But with proper training and by imparting an understanding of the big picture, leaders can and must learn to allow others the autonomy to carry on business without requiring them to find you before they make a decision. No, I am not suggesting we abdicate and a search of this blog will turn up several articles about this subject. However, I am suggesting that control easily morphs into over-control.

Letting go of control. This is a biggy. For whatever reasons, many leaders are terrified of letting go of control. But the process of growing up as children into teenagers and then adults is the process of appropriating more and more control. Parents learn to train their children and release more autonomy as the kids mature. At least the effective ones do. You simply cannot extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work if you insist on maintaining control.

More effective organizational structures look like the one below. I used this diagram to help a local consulting organization reorganize for greater effectiveness in their market. The teams in the large rings are the assemblies of people who take on the responsibility of making the organization more effective. In the tiny little intersection of the three rings sits the administrative board. They serve as coordinators and facilitators not managers or monitors.

new structureLeaders and managers function and coordinators and facilitators rather than controllers and directors. Ideas come from all over the place. Motivation rises because co-workers have autonomy and can enjoy the consequences of their responsible behavior. Thinking becomes more we and less me. The focus is on the overall mission and vision rather than personal task lists.

Yes, it is a bit less efficient, at least in the beginning. And it can seem chaotic. But to remain viable in today’s fast-paced marketplace, organizations must be nimble and agile. Higher degrees of responsiveness demand higher participation of independent thinkers who can come up with ideas and manifest the energy to bring them about.

Here is a list of my suggestions for building agility into your company, organization, or agency.

  1. Optimize processes – Streamline the way things have to work everywhere you can. Eliminate duplicate efforts. Increase customer satisfaction (thus cutting down on the time and effort it takes to solve customer complaints and issues). This implies a thorough examination of the way things are done.
  2. Enable “plug and play” as a company attitude. Make changes easier. Require fewer signatures to get authorization to do things. Integrate processes more efficiently and make it simpler to integrate new technologies.
  3. Make flexibility and agility a key requirement of any and all systems, methods, processes, and products. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Beware the people who make things more complicated. Reward and encourage straight-line efforts, discourage cluttering up things with many steps when fewer will do.

If any company or organization is going to remain relevant in the world’s marketplaces, it must learn to use all its resources. Too many leaders are very good at using tools and equipment but not so good at using the human resources around them. You’ve got good people with you. Let them do their job and stay out of the way.


Leave a Comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.