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(c) David Duphil

Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

Energy is More Efficient Than Efficiency

Efficiency is a great thing. Getting things done with less waste, in less time, with less redundancy, requiring less people is worth pursuing. The idea being that if you and your team can be more efficient it means that you can get more things done, faster and with less effort. And there’s nothing really wrong with that.

To a point.

Because there does come a time, like with pretty much everything, when the pursuit of efficiency starts to become a hindrance. There comes a point when the energy put into becoming more efficient actually becomes detrimental to getting done the thing you’re actually trying to get done. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

1)     It could be that you begin to lose focus on the quality of what your pursuing in the effort to streamline the process. If efficiency is the pure goal – or understood to be the pure goal, with no qualification, then quality may be sacrificed in exchanged for swiftness or lower costs, for example. Now this isn’t always a problem, but it can easily become one.

2)     It could be because you become so focussed on becoming more efficient that it distracts you from actually doing what you’re trying to do.

3)     It might be that instead of expending the brainpower on becoming more efficient that effort might be better used on trying to be better, which isn’t always – or even often – the same as being more efficient. Particularly if your working with and through people. Efficiency isn’t the best lens through which to view working with people. Systems can be efficient. Processes can be efficient. But efficiency doesn’t often work well as the guiding rubric when you’re dealing with people. With people you want to be effective rather than efficient.

4)     And sometimes it’s simply because you are trying to achieve the wrong thing. And so it doesn’t matter how efficient you get at doing it, it’s still not the right thing. And so all it means is that you fail quicker, with less effort and less redundancy along the way.

In some cases a pursuit of efficiency can actually get in the way. In some cases it actually stifles creativity and innovation. It can stifle appropriate risk-taking. It can stifle passion and enthusiasm for all things except efficiency itself. And it can end up working against you so that you actually achieve less and take longer to get there.

Efficiency is good to a point, but seeking to trim all waste and all redundancy and time processes down to the second is, in most cases, foolish. Better to focus on energy.

People who have energy will get more things done in less time with more enthusiasm than the person focussed on efficiency. A certain type of energy, mind you. Not an ADHD, erratic and unfocussed-type energy but instead a disciplined and focussed energy. People with that kind of energy will work and achieve more than purely efficient people.

And so efficiency is good to a point, but that point comes quickly. After that, pursuing efficiency becomes a hindrance and not an efficient use of time and resources. Better to focus on energy – finding people with energy and finding people who can energise others. Then those energetic people, working within processes that are largely streamlined, will achieve more results quicker.

Energy is more efficient than efficiency.