November 27, 2000
Defined: Efficiency is using resources wisely and in a cost-effective way.
The idea of efficiency has always intrigued me. Finding the most productive and fruitful way to accomplish something is always on my mind. I have had many of my own experiences that I could use to illustrate this concept, but I would like to use an experience from my brother that shows how he had to efficiently use his resources to accomplish a task.
Years ago my oldest brother Rick worked for an air conditioning company. He was one of their top electricians in the field and was known for his quality of work. He related the following event that was a pivotal point that helped him to mold his perception of efficiency.
He remembers wiring an electrical box for a unit that was going to be installed the following day. He told me of how he would meticulously measure each strand of wire exactly. He made sure that after stripping the ends and twisting the pieces together there would be no excess wire wasted. He felt confident that he was being efficient, that he was using his company’s resources wisely and cost-effectively. As his boss looked over his shoulder, my brother expected praise for saving the company money. He was quite surprised at the criticism he received instead. His boss told him that he appreciated his desires to be efficient, but that he wasn’t looking at the whole picture. He told my brother, “Rick, look at it this way. Think of the rate that I am paying you per hour, and lets say that you spend an extra 5 minutes per hour making sure that each wire is cut exactly to length so you don’t waste any wire. Rick, if I multiply all those minutes in a week you’ve wasted by how much I pay you per minute, I could buy spools and spools of wire to waste, and still have money left over.” His point was very clear and it hit my brother like a brick. He was actually wasting money and being less efficient with his boss’s resources which were wire and his time. My brother was only looking at efficiently using one resource, the wire, and didn’t pay attention to the more costly resource he was wasting, his TIME!
This event in my brother’s life has stuck with him very vividly, and has helped him ever since. As a manager he has realized the importance of efficiency, of examining all aspects of a task, and all of the resources involved. Managers of all types must always be conscious of the most efficient ways of using every resource available to them.
During this Thanksgiving season I am grateful for 4 older brothers who are all in management positions, and who have had such wonderful experiences. I’m especially thankful that they have seen the wisdom in sharing these experiences with me.