Doing the Right Things vs. Doing Things Right

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Using your time wisely can be seen as a matter of efficiency and effectiveness. You surely know the classical definitions of those two terms: Efficiency means reducing input and resources required for a task while effectiveness is increasing useful output.

I find a non-classical definition much better I learned about from a management trainer:

If you know your Peter Drucker by heart, you will see that this is a “remix” of one of his original quotes, which is “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

The funny thing is: I am not a 100% sure if I created that remix by a false memory or if the trainer did the remix. I just know that I like it much more this way than the original quote.

This definition fits well into the lean mindset. Here is a list of reasons which come to my mind immediately.

  1. Doing the right things means that your actions are well-tuned to your values and goals.
  2. Doing things right means intellect is used well.
  3. Doing the wrong things is at least over-production or over-processing.
  4. Doing things right at once reduces rework waste.
  5. Doing things wrong can mean transportation or motion waste.
  6. This definition of effectiveness embraces the classical definition of efficiency.
  7. Efficiency, as defined here, is grounded on setting the right priorities.

A lot of people, both in business and privately, try to do the wrong things with the least resources. Sometimes they even call this Lean. But beware, this is the Dark Side of Lean.

The Lean alternative is first to see what should be done and then to do it right. That includes continuous improvement.

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