With our commentary on accountability done just last week, we can move our curious eyes and minds onto another value that makes professionals all the more effective in the workplace.
THE FOURTH CONSTANT: EFFICIENCY
Workplaces everywhere operate with a limited amount of resources. Whether they’re consumable supplies, paid utilities, fixed assets, financial capital, learning & development materials, human resources or even timelines, there are always limitations to how resources can be used in terms of quantity or longevity.
Efficiency is essentially a way of producing results while keeping that reality in mind. But what does that involve?
The most important consideration for efficient conversion of resources into satisfactory output is standardization or benchmarking. When there is a reliable benchmark for which resources and how much of them will be spent on the accomplishment of a particular task, it becomes an indicator of efficiency. An employee who reliably produces 3 pages of output every half-hour using only 3 pages of clean bond paper can be said to have established a benchmark.
Now if that particular employee suddenly produces less than 2 pages of output during a particular half-hour period, they can be said to have decreased in efficiency. When this recurs, it can be considered as a liability because the organization is not getting the same amount of output from the employee using the standard amount of resources. To achieve the original results, they may have to increase resource consumption.
Conversely, if the same employee managed to fit 4 pages worth of output on the same 3 sheets of bond paper within the same half-hour period, there is an increase in efficiency. This is considered a gain because the standard amount of resources yielded more than the standard amount of output.
Of course, resource-output ratio must be viewed in a relative way. This is because there are many different ways of being efficient that conserve different levels of resources, and there are some forms of output increase that require increased resource consumption as well. The employee in the given example could still exceed 3 pages and produce 4, but using 4 sheets of clean bond paper instead of 3. That can be considered a case of necessary increase in consumption, especially if there is no way to fit the contents of 4 pages into 3 sheets of paper. Still, the time consumed would have been the same at half an hour so there is still a net increase in the produced output.
In the given example, there is one other resource that has not been explained in depth: the employee. It can be argued that efficiency is also a resource, as a component of the employee’s skills. And it is a resource that can be enhanced along with an organization’s human resources. Training the members of an organization can have significant impact on their levels of efficiency, enabling them to figure out ways of using fewer resources to accomplish more at the same level of quality. That investment in itself requires consumption of time, learning material and other consumable resources as well as the use of fixed facilities and assets for training sessions.
Seeing how resources interplay like this reveals a cycle: resources can be consumed and utilized in certain ways to acquire more resources. It is this cycle that lies at the heart of every business operation. And this cycle relies on the aforementioned standardization or benchmarking to have any chance of increasing in efficiency.
And it’s not always easy to raise benchmarks and make professionals more efficient. But surely, the investment of resources for that would be worth it.