In 1978 when I was 8 years old my family travelled around Europe for 3 months towing a caravan. Looking back, my parents were extremely brave and adventurous and quite possibly a little insane to drag 3 young children (11, 8 and 4) from church to castle to gallery to vineyard to church to castle….and back again across multiple countries where we spoke not a word of the local language and when we said we were ‘Australian’ most people thought we were ‘Austrian’ and spoke to us accordingly. There were seemingly endless hours sitting in the backseat of the old pale blue Volvo as we transversed Alps, field after field of sunflowers, or the back roads to avoid taking on the lunatics on the autobahn.
One thing I remember about the long hours in the car was a game my mum invented that had something or other to do with proverbs. It is fair to say that I don’t actually remember the rules or the purpose of the game, but four decades plus later I am still able to reel off a ridiculous number of proverbs to suit any occasion. It’s a skill.
And on reflection, a lot of proverbs – at least the 4 dozen or so inked into my memory – have a lot to say about being productive or about being efficient. Which is kind of funny, given I am now a time management specialist.
I haven’t thought about those proverbs in a long time, but then a week or so ago, a client reached out to me with this question: I am struggling to understand the difference between efficiency and productivity: how are they different? And two proverbs immediately sprung to mind:
- Don’t put the cart before the horse; and
Make hay while the sun shines
But which is focussed on efficiency and which on productivity?
My client’s question was a great one – because I see so many people confuse these two concepts. Often, leaders talk in terms of ‘productivity’ when they really mean ‘efficiency’, or vice versa, or they simply interchange the words assuming that they mean exactly the same thing. But these two words don’t mean the same thing, they aren’t interchangeable, and as a leader it’s important to understand the difference so that you can maximise both the productivity and the efficiency elements of your business.
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