We live in a modern fast moving world. We are trying to manage more and more. We are trying to be as efficient as possible. Efficiency and effectiveness has become a mantra to live by in the business world. You hear these words all the time and they are more or less synonyms (even according to Merriam-Webster), expect that they are not. There is an instance where they mean something very different and that is a communication with other human beings. According to Merriam-Webster:
producing or capable of producing a desired result <that manual lawn mower is not a very efficient tool for doing a huge yard>
- producing or capable of producing a desired result <an effective treatment of the once-dreaded disease>
- having the power to persuade <made an effective argument in favor of the proposal>
Let us translate this to the world of communication and see how efficient and effective communication can look like and then consider how you usually communicate.
One of the most efficient ways to communicate is e-mail. You can write down couple of sentences, punch a send button and in couple of seconds the information spreads to hundreds of people. A bit less efficient but still pretty good is recording a voice message or a video of what you want to communicate and post it on youtube or at least corporate intranet.
Both of these are very common in corporate environment and with both of them you have to ask a very important questions: “Who actually read the email or saw the video? And how did they understand the content?” Hundred percent for efficiency, zero percent for effectiveness. You communicated what you wanted but you have no idea whether you actually communicated anything at all.
If you really want people to hear what you are saying, understand it right and take action you need to take a bit less efficient but more effective approach. What is the mysterious way to get your point across? Just pick up a phone, or get out of your office and walk to their cubicle and talk to them! Talking may not be the most efficient way how to spread information but in the long-run it saves you time in a form of less confusion and less misunderstandings.
Talking will provide you with several benefits you wouldn’t get by the other more efficient means:
- Feedback (people have a chance to provide you with feedback and potentially improve on your original idea)
- Clarity (people may ask questions that will make you clarify things even for yourself thus leading to better understanding)
- Buy-in (people will feel involved and thus will be more willing to act upon the requests you made)
So which one do you chose? It really depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you just want to “spread the word” and you are not particularly interested whether all the parties get the information then you go for the most efficient option. If it is important to you that the information is received, understood and acted upon you want to go for effectiveness over efficiency. Simply put, the way how you communicate is equally important to the content of what you communicate.
Twitter summary: “Forget efficiency when communicating important information. Go for effectiveness.”
Other articles on topic of communication:
How do you usually communicate? What form of communication works for you the best?
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