Efficiency is NOT Enough

One must, however, not just work hard. One must work smart. As the saying goes, the efficient person gets the job done right, but the effective person gets the right job done. – John-Roger and Peter McWilliams

While sitting at home wearing my Rich Gannon number 12 jersey watching the Raiders beat the Cardinals 31-3 Thursday evening, I took a keen interest in how Sam Adams was playing for the Raiders. As the most recent member of the team signed, he has only been in training camp for about a week as opposed to the four weeks the rest of the team has been there. He reported to camp weighing 340 pounds, which is big even for an NFL defensive lineman. Because he is still a bit out of shape, he was running off the field after every play to sit the next play out, then running back on the field to rejoin the game. He would breathe from an oxygen mask as soon as he got to the sideline, and was visibly tired. Raider announcer Sean Jones remarked on this situation- he said that he remembered that as a player, running off the field after every play actually was more work than staying in the game to play consecutive downs. I came to think that the effort to reduce the workload for Sam Adams actually generated more work for him.I then thought about the things that I do that I think of as saving me time and energy, but actually are more work than the alternative. I lost my TV remote control a few weeks ago, and rather than just get up to change the channel, I spent 30 minutes turning my living room upside down looking for it. I eventually found it in the kitchen, but by the time I did I was both frustrated and annoyed, and I had spent a full inning of the Dodger game looking for the remote control when I didn’t even have a desire to change the channel.While I have suspicions that my two examples are activities that weren’t very effective, I decided to take it one step further. I measured the extra work that was done due to the manner in which these situations played out. Sam Adams ran on and off the field at least 10 times each way, running about 20 yards each time, so he ran approximately 400 yards. If he had stayed on the field, for the same number of plays he would have only had to run on and off the field twice each way, thus only running 160 yards. He ran an extra 240 yards in an effort to conserve energy. I spent approximately 30 minutes looking for my remote control, walking all over my apartment. To change the channel, it would take only about 10 seconds, so I would have had to change the channel 180 times before it justified spending that long looking for the remote control. The biggest problem with these situations isn’t that work was done poorly- Sam Adams ran about as fast as a 340 pound defensive lineman can, and I did a pretty thorough job of searching my apartment. The problem lies with the decision that was made to undergo these tasks instead of a more effective means of accomplishing the same end result.Those of you who aren’t football fans or couch potatoes are probably thinking, “Funny story Matt, but what does that have to do with my business?” Think for a moment about how often we as business people do these exact same things at work. How often do you undertake an activity with the stated goal of saving time, effort, or money and actually wind up spending more time, effort, and money? What can you do to streamline your operations to reduce wasted time and effort? While some activities might pop immediately into your head, not everything we do that can be improved upon is immediately apparent. There are five key steps to identifying waste in your operation and making your business not only efficient, but effective as well.1) Determine what you want to accomplish
You must first know what it is you want to do before you know if your activities are working or not. If you are advertising in the newspaper or on the radio, what result do you want to obtain from these ads? Is it a certain number of customers you want to acquire? If you are producing a physical product, how many do you want to manufacture and how long do you want it to take? If you are making sales calls, how many calls do you want to make and how many people do you want to speak with? Once you have figured out what it is you want to achieve, you can start to look at how you currently achieve these results.2) Measure the effort you are putting into your activities
Now you should measure the effort you put into your current activities. If it is advertising to acquire new customers, calculate how much you currently spend on advertising for each new customer you gain. If you spend $2000/month and gain 10 new customers, you are spending $200 per new customer. If you are producing a physical product, and it currently takes you one week to produce 10 of them, you know it takes ½ a day to manufacture each item. If you make 20 sales calls, and speak with 4 prospects in two hours, you know you must make about 5 calls to speak to one person and you can make 10 calls an hour with your current methods.3) Compare these results to your goals
If you spend $200 per new customer and gain 10 new customers a month, but you want to spend only $125 per new customer and want to get 16 new customers a month, you know that you need to change your advertising if you are going to meet this goal. If you want to produce 15 pieces a week instead of 10, you know you must decrease your manufacturing time from ½ a day per item to a 1/3 of a day per item. If you only have 2 hours to make sales calls and you want to reach 8 people, you know you must be more effective with your calling efforts.4) Identify waste in your operations
If there is a difference between your desired results and your actual results, you know that you are wasting efforts in some respect. For the advertising example, perhaps your media mix can be adjusted to reach a better audience for your products and services. If you are manufacturing products, there may be limitations in the physical layout of your operations that slow your operation down. If the 2 hours you spend making calls are in 15 minute segments spread throughout the week, you may be wasting some time in preparing for calls multiple times throughout the week instead of just once.5) Eliminate the waste
If you have come to realize that your product sells best to women aged 18-30, and you are currently advertising in AARP magazine, you are likely wasting your advertising dollars- shift them to a marketing vehicle that makes more sense for your target audience. If you noticed that you have to move materials across your shop in a zig zag pattern while assembling the parts, try changing the layout of your operation so you don’t have as much wasted energy moving things around. If you get a lot of incoming phone calls that interrupt your outbound sales calls, try switching your phone to send all incoming calls to voicemail before you start making your calls.If the Raiders had done this, Sam Adams would certainly have been more refreshed on the sidelines, and if I had followed this advice I would have just gotten up to change the channel and would have enjoyed an inning of Dodger baseball rather than grabbing a flashlight to look under my couch.We live in a society that moves at the speed of fiber optics. Information is flying at us from all directions. We constantly have to prioritize what is urgent critical or merely important. Today being efficient just isn’t enough. We need to find ways to be more effective.

Posted in Improving Productivity, Management Development, Uncategorized.

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