Doing the Right Things Right

Did you know that there is an important difference between efficiency and effectiveness? Let’s talk about that difference and, more importantly, why it matters.

Most businesses focus a lot of energy on running an efficient operation – efficient in the sense that things get done with a minimum of effort and motion, keeping overhead costs to the minimum. It’s low input and high output. In other words, efficiency is doing things right. But doing what things? Ah-ha! This is a very important question.

You see, effectiveness would be doing the right things right. And effectiveness is what you want to aim for, because you can be extremely efficient at doing the wrong things. You can practice the wrong technique or the wrong moves until you’ve got it down perfectly. And then you’re going to wonder and worry about why you’re not doing any better, why the business is failing, why your customers don’t come back when everything is running like a well-oiled machine.

So when you visualize yourself or your business, don’t just see yourself doing things right. See yourself doing the right things right. And remember that sometimes the right thing done imperfectly can beat the heck out of a flawless performance of the wrong thing. Edward Deming, the originator of the total quality management movement, once said that if you run a company on numbers alone, you are sure to fail, because the most important numbers are unknown and unknowable.

It is possible that one of the things he meant was, don’t worry so much about doing things right, and concentrate instead on doing the right things. It’s a wonderful habit to create for ourselves, and not such a bad thing to teach our children, as well.