How "Effective" Were You Today?


BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT: There is an important difference between effectiveness and efficiency.

"Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency" - Bryce's Law


Okay, you believe you had a great day at work today; that you accomplished a lot. Maybe you did. Then again, maybe you didn't do as much as you might think. A lot of people believe just because they are a model of efficiency, they are being highly productive. This is simply not true. We have discussed the concept of productivity on more than one occasion in this column, but some trends in the business world have caused me to revisit it again.

Perhaps the biggest problem here is that people fallaciously equate efficiency with productivity. They are most definitely not synonymous. Efficiency is concerned with speed of delivery, reduced errors, and minimal costs or effort. In other words, how fast we can perform a given task, at reduced costs, without committing any substantial errors in the process. But what if we are performing the wrong task at the wrong time? Obviously this would be counterproductive regardless how efficiently we performed the task. I always use the example of industrial robots on an assembly line, whereby they can perform tasks such as welding very efficiently. However, if they are welding the wrong thing at the wrong time, they are counterproductive.

This means there are two variables involved with productivity: efficiency and effectiveness. Whereas efficiency primarily deals with speed and "doing things right," effectiveness is concerned with "doing the right things." In other words, working on assignments in the right sequence. Sequence can be defined for a single project by its work breakdown structure (WBS) and precedent relationships, or for working on multiple projects based on priority.


To better understand the differences between effectiveness versus efficiency, I have developed an MS Excel spreadsheet where you can test your own personal productivity. Click here to download.

In the first part, I ask you to assess your sense of efficiency for the day; for example:

  • I was a dynamo today; worked fast, no errors.
  • I did more than my share, not too many mistakes.
  • I did my fair share, average number of mistakes.
  • I was below average, some mistakes.
  • Had a bad day; too many mistakes, a lot of time lost.

Next, I ask you to consider your current work assignments in priority order. In other words, consider the projects you worked on from the highest to lowest priority. In some cases, people may have only one work assignment, which is fine.

Following this, I want you to account for your time during the day; both the time spent on project assignments, as well as indirect activities (such as attending meetings, breaks, checking e-mail, etc.). In other words, the interferences or activities not directly related to your work assignments. Be honest now, everybody spends time during the day on such indirect activities. By the way, on the average, office workers spend 70% of their time on direct project work and 30% on interferences.

The spreadsheet will then calculate a productivity rating based on the time spent on projects in priority sequence, and taking into account time spent on interferences.


The spreadsheet provides a convenient way to understand how productivity should be calculated. It is far from scientific (for example, the efficiency rating is crudely estimated without any level of precision). Nonetheless, the productivity number highlights the differences between efficiency and effectiveness.

I have seen companies who like to plot efficiency ratings on a graph, but as far as I am concerned the data is misleading as they only portray a glimpse of a much larger picture. Plotting the effectiveness rating is just as important as the efficiency rating and helps produce a realistic productivity rating.


Some workers, particularly craftsmen, understand the differences between efficiency and effectiveness. They appreciate the total process for building something and are acutely aware of the potential risk for cutting corners. Some simply don't get it (and probably never will). For example, the Information Technology industry commonly misunderstands this concept and is obsessed with efficiency. As evidence, consider the use of "Agile Methodologies" today which are quick and dirty approaches for writing a program. Here, a rudimentary program is developed, then radically refined over time until the client signs-off on it. Proponents consider Agile Methodologies to be a quantum leap forward in terms of productivity. I don't. True, they can write code fast, but because they are not well structured, a lot of time is spent revising designs and rewriting code, not just once but several times. Instead of getting it right the first time, Agile Methodologies rely on the efficiency of their power programming tools to make them look good.

So what is a good productivity rating? First, let's dispense with the notion of 100% productivity. This is purely a myth. This would mean that everyone in a company is being both highly effective and efficient around the clock. This is simply not possible. Actually, 25% is considered a good rating and is typical for a lot of companies.

If this paper has done nothing more than raise your consciousness about the differences between effectiveness and efficiency, then it has served its purpose. Hopefully, it will cause you to refocus your efforts on "doing the right things" as opposed to just "doing things right."

So, how "effective" were you today? Your answer will say a lot.

As a footnote; If you are familiar with my writings on "PRIDE" Project Management, you have heard me talk about "Effectiveness Rate" in differentiating the use of time. What I am describing herein is not the same thing; similar, but not quite. Under the Project Management scenario "effectiveness rate" is an availability rating which is used for estimating and scheduling, but not for calculating productivity.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Author: Tim Bryce

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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