My own style of management mandates that I only hire people who are better than me at what I am hiring them for. Only weak executives/managers hire second rate candidates! They also tend to enjoy the mushroom style management, meaning to keep people in the dark and feed them S#!T. These execs fit perfectly into some of those large, inept enterprise bureaucracies that spend top-advertizing dollars to sell themselves as being perfectly efficient and effective at what they do. Only, that it is mostly no more than a marketing ploy.

Truly, what does being efficient and effective mean?

Efficient refers to doing something with the least amount of expendable energy/money! Correct? Well, to be honest a lazy person will be perfect in achieving that because he will think before wasting energy. Hmm, describes me pretty well. Give the same job to a non-lazy busybody and you get a lot of activity but the last thing you get is efficiency.

Efficient has a relative meaning. It has to mean ‘more efficient than other ways.’ Now what are the other ways? Who knows how efficient they are? I know a lot of efficiency experts (of the BPM kind mostly) who do nothing else than to come up with creative ways for business cases for relative efficiency improvements. Most of it is illusion and if true it is achieved by firing people. One persons idea of efficient – to take for example the car to save time – may be utterly inefficient for someone with an ecological perspective. Thus I would not see being efficient as a personal quality.

Being efficient without considering effectiveness is fairly inefficient and it is often difficult to combine the two from all perspectives. You might even see them as opposite sides of a coin. If you take the bicycle to the store rather than the car to save energy but you get there too late, you were not only ineffective but by all means also not efficient. So is being effective also therefore more efficient? No, because burning down the house would get rid of pest infestments, but so would the right dose of insectizide.

On the other hand, being effective requires that the goal has been clearly stated and is in some way measurable. Often the most effective thing is to reevaluate the goals, sometimes because of efficiency considerations. You have evaluate efficiency options to see if they are effective and possibly restate goals again. Is the goal to kill the insects or not to be pestered by them? Can I keep them out rather than kill. Can I get a deterrent (i.e. cat)?

The same line of thought applies to all questions of economy, ecology and business. Unfortunately, most people coming off universities with a great education have been brainwashed with a huge amount of ‘working procedures’ and ‘best practices’, ’standard methodologies’ and ‘research results’ that they think they need to try and understand what all the considerations around effectiveness and efficiency are. They apply ‘template 2711? because it has been effective in the past and try to squeeze everyone to doing it to the lowest possible cost. If it turns out to be effective (50% chance) and the price is lower than the first offer or how ‘template 2711? has been applied in other situations, that person is a genius! Possibly it is absolute nonsense, but who would know how to measure it?

In that busybodies-applying-templates lies the problem of governments, global enterprises, and any other typical bureaucracy. Putting lazy people in charge who are free to reevaluate goals to their ultimate purpose is the most efficient and effective way of management.

How do we find the right kind of lazy people?

Obviously we all look for certain character traits for particular positions. Remember the 80/20 Pareto Rule. 20 percent of people will do 80% of the important or profitable work. The problem is that you can’t fire the other 80% percent because the rule would still apply. The important part is to make sure that those 20% are the right people – I see them as the process owners. The very top 2% are the most important as those are your leaders and it is their character traits that define what your business is like. The executive’s job is to select those leaders and make sure they understand what you stand for. You do not need to have a clue how to do it yourself (it does help however). My experience tells me that you can neither classify those people nor put them in quadrants or look for efficiency or effectiveness – they just need to feel right and you need to try them out if they have a positive resonance with you. You can trust them and they feel respected and valued.

This is why being a great executive is a personality trait and not something you can be taught … you can maybe learn it through the school of hard knocks. Don’t tell me you are efficienct or effective, but tell me about those hard knocks, the stuff that you messed up and learned from. Do that, and you would be ‘my (wo)man’.

Max J. Pucher

Max J. Pucher is the founder and current Chief Architect of ISIS Papyrus Software, a globally operating company that specializes in Artificial Intelligence for business process and communication. He has written several books, frequently speaks and writes on IT and holds several patents.