Peter F. Drucker, The Father of Modern Management, once said, “Efficiency is doing the things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” He also mentioned that “Management is doing the things right; Leadership is doing the right things.” In this article, I would like to share my thought about the balance: doing the right things right.
It is interesting that Agile Concept is coming to answer today’s challenge: VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). In my previous experience, it is interesting as well to see that for a running business, most of the people are focusing on the first one: efficiency.
As mentioned on the earlier statement, efficiency is about doing the things right. It is about a right management process and it is truly important. Doing the things right means the business have “cost reduction” on time consumption. But, it is not only about cost reduction, but also productivity improvement. It is because on the other hands, doing the things right means having more productivity, because the output is really measurable. There is no surprise that agile method is matched on this situation. The philosophy to get everything quicker, on a specific 2-weeks “sprint” time-frame, with a specific goals, make this agile method is efficient.
So, what is the point?
Again, it is about the balance. Focusing on efficiency is good, but there is another angle, effectiveness, which is about doing the right things first. What will happen with doing the wrong things efficiently? It may looks quick and efficient, but it is not leading to a correct goal. It is much more important to race on the right track and right way.
While efficiency is about management, effectiveness is about leadership. A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. They may be wrong for their decision, obviously, but they are the one who lead everyone on doing the right things, based on the current knowledge and strategy. The leader decide to clear the path to take the risk and say: OK, this is the right thing to do now.
It is interesting because the leader is becoming the key, the master key, when they are playing this role. In the bigger picture, this risk taking role is about right and wrong. They may lead the rest of the efficient team to work efficiently wrong, or efficiently right. And that is why the title of this article is start with this important word: The Balance.
When we are talking about the balance of effectiveness and efficiency, it is something happen in parallel. Management and leadership is two important topic to happen in parallel too.
Imagine when there is a driver. The driver drives the passenger from location A to B. When the weather is good, the driver may see the road clearly, so that he can decide which road to be taken. But sometimes, there are probably some rain, thunder, or even storm on the way. Decision making is not that easy. The road may looks “okay”, but in fact, it is more slippery. Another intersection offer more interesting option: small road without traffic jam, or a highway toll with a risk an accident happen in the middle of road. Slow. Stuck. It happens.
We are now the driver. We are the leader. We drive the team from situation A to the goal B. Weather is good, decision making is easier. Goal achieved. But here we goes: there are bad weathers. Choosing the right way is risky. Someone important player on the team left, a new one coming. While we trust the new team member is okay, this new player can be slippery on the current situation. There are complex 2-4-6-8 intersections, that probably about choosing the best strategy and tactics from time to time. The leader has to decide to choose the doing the right way.
Here is why efficiency play the big role. Sometimes we are a leader who is accountable for the decision making. Sometimes we are an analyst, who prepare the right information for the leader, so the leader can decide the best, the right option, based on the latest analysis. When there is an intersection, with high level of risk, the leader aware if they decide to drive it that way. In the middle of the road, there are a team of passenger who will remind us that in the next 3 km there is an accident that can probably block the way, so we should take the exit way on the next 2 km.
Be effective first. Be a leader. Do the right things. But in parallel, be efficient. Be a good manager. Do the things right. If we know we might on the right track, but wrong way, do the things right, and be ready to change and fix the wrong things. Be Balance. Continuously.