Can Efficiency Compromise Your Results

Penny ZenkerAccountability, Micro-Management, TIME MANAGEMENTLeave a Comment

person writing the word efficiency into a chalkboard

green glass bottle beside two clear wine glass on brown wooden tableCan efficiency compromise your results? A good friend of mine, Jill, went on this amazing wine tour in Napa Valley. What does that have to do with time management and productivity, wait for it? Her good friend, Steve, is a high-end buyer of wines and organized wine tasting at the most exclusive wineries closed to the public. He had planned a fantastic weekend for a group of 8 friends.

Steve is a very successful businessman. How else could he afford all that wine, right? He is a big shot in his company and he prides himself on doing things efficiently. Speed is of the essence in his business and private life. He prides himself on tools and gadgets that help to complete jobs faster. He makes decisions fast – which Malcolm Gladwell pointed out was a hallmark trait of successful leaders. Not surprisingly, this behavior also shows up in his wine purchasing.

During each tasting, he quickly identified which wines he wanted to purchase for his collection. Without hesitation and stealth-like, he would then quickly place the order and be ready to go to the next location. Although efficiently handled, unfortunately, this was not the most effective strategy for his wine purchasing.

You see, there were seven other people tasting as part of his group. What Steve failed to take into account is that others might want to purchase some wine as well. Could there have been additional benefits if others purchased together?

An entrepreneur knows right away that there is an opportunity to be more effective in collaborating together as a group. We will give Steve a break here as he works for a big company and not might see the opportunity as quickly. Steve failed to take into account is that others might want to purchase some wine, He didn’t ask just did his thing. Sometimes individual efficiency can be at the cost of the group. (In case you didn’t connect the dots yet, I am not just talking about wine purchasing, wink, wink).

Jill is an entrepreneur, so when she went to place her order, she asked the owner about discounts being offered for large purchases. He told her that when one case or more is ordered, the bottles will be discounted at 20% for all that order. That’s a decent savings, or more wine to take home. Without their collaboration as a group, they would not be able to take advantage of the savings. Before she went to ask the group, my friend asked the proprietor if anyone else already purchased. Steve already made his purchase, and the owner of the winery was now no longer able to cancel and re-ring his order. Steve was not able to take advantage of the discount. Even though she missed the opportunity to collaborate with Steve, my friend is persuasive, the owner did offer my friend a free bottle of high-end wine with her order. The quality of questions you ask will determine the quality of your result. In other words, your questions have the power to make you more effective.

The moral of the story is being fast and efficient at completing something, doesn’t necessarily make it effective.
Even if Steve didn’t care about a discount or more wine (but come on, I am sure he would say yes to more wine, wouldn’t you?), he could have helped the others. If he chose to coordinate with his group, he would have been efficient and effective. He would have received an extra bottle of wine, his group would be happy because they also would receive that discount too. In addition, collaborating together often create and enhances the experience.

Many people view productivity as efficiency. There are some flaws in the definition of productivity as you can relate from Steve’s example and the business example provided below.
In my book the Productivity Zone, I define productivity as were efficient and effective meeting. When you are efficient but not effectivethe productivity zone book cover you are underperforming. When you are effective but not efficient you are overperforming.

What does efficient decision-making look like? What do efficient internal or sales meetings look like? Compare the definition with the definition of an effective decision, an effective internal or sales meeting. They are different yet complement and impact one another.

Most corporate training focuses on efficiency and misses the soft factors that often make the result more effective. Management training needs to be adapted to cover both.
This may be just a silly wine story, but where does this show up for you as a leader in your decision making, your purchasing, your product development, or any other area of your business?.

I worked with a client who spent years developing their products internally efficiently and they were proud of their efficiency. The challenge was they were so focused on efficiency because the sales weren’t what they expected. Often companies over-emphasize efficiencies and end up compromising the end result.

In this case, they did their product development in a vacuum without any client feedback. I would say that didn’t have a focus on what would make their development efforts more effective with their customers. After all, aren’t they looking to sell those products to the customers? The over-emphasis of efficiency compromised the effective result.

After changing their new product development process to include market feedback, they were able to win over 2 major retailers and a few very large manufactures they had been trying to acquire as customers for some time. The workshops together with these companies may have been seen as inefficient with the number of people required at the meetings, the keynote speakers they hired, and the team-building exercises they performed. But the results would say otherwise. You can’t argue with the results.

The biggest time management tips demonstrate that it isn’t just about saving time and efficiency; it is about being more effective at the same time. It is about achieving more in less time with fewer resources. It is time to look at where you might be over or under-performing individually and as a team. Isn’t it time you closed the gaps and more consistently perform in the Productivity Zone?

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