Make sure you are doing the right job, and then do it right.
Does your neighborhood have a friendly old man who is grandpa to all the kids on the street? When I was young, I had such a neighbor.
He was amazing. He was kind to all the children. He taught us how to enjoy working. We watched him garden and care for his lawn. His yard was immaculate. His garage was painted and covered with pegboards so that every tool was hanging in its proper place. He swept and polished the concrete floor regularly, and then painted it. It was so clean you could eat off of it.
As small children, we followed him around the yard while he mowed his lawn. When he was done, he would trim the edges with scissors. Then, while we watched in amazement, he would place the lawn mower on two saw horses, crawl underneath in his pressed coveralls, and chisel out all the soggy grass that was underneath. Then he would hose it out and use his air compressor to blow dry the mower.
I once asked him what he did before he retired. He told me with great pride that during the 40s and 50s he worked an efficiency expert. I asked, “What does that mean?” “Efficiency,” he said, “is doing the job right.”
Sometimes we mistakenly think efficiency means doing the job faster, but faster is not efficient when quality suffers. My dad’s mantra was “any job worth doing is worth doing right.” But that also means that not all jobs are worth doing. The wrong job, no matter how efficiently done, is still a waste of time.
Efficiency is not productive unless it is accompanied by effectiveness. I remember hearing my old professor, Peter Drucker, teaching us: “Efficiency is doing the job right. Effectiveness is doing the right job.”
Sometimes we are so involved in getting the job done, that we fail to ask whether it is the right job to do. It may end up being the right job, but is this the best time to do it? Are there other tasks to be done first? Should it be modified in light of new data or market trends? These are critical questions that should be asked before a job is begun.
Don’t become a prisoner to habit and tradition. Of course we want to be efficient, but let’s be effective first. Let’s make sure we’re doing the right job, and then do it right.
- Take a moment to think about typical jobs or tasks you do. Are they done because of traditional practices?
Can you see how habit and routine can keep you too busy to question if there is a better way?
How can you make sure the tasks you are doing are the best use of your time?