First, let’s start with one or two definitions of effectiveness (you should add yours too). Effectiveness can be defined as:
- Producing or capable of producing an intended result.
- The degree to which something is successful in producing the desired result.
According to Stephen R. Covey,
“True effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced and the producing asset or capacity to produce.
True effectiveness is based on a paradigm that is in harmony with a natural law, a principle Stephen Covey calls the P/PC Balance which many of us break ourselves against. This principle can be easily understood by remembering Aesop’s fable of the goose and the golden egg.
The Goose and the Golden egg
This fable is the story of a poor farmer who had a goose. One morning the poor farmer rose up to find a glittering golden egg in the nest of his pet goose. At first, he thought it must be some kind of trick and wanted to throw the egg aside. But he has second thoughts and takes it to be appraised instead. The egg to the poor farmer’s amazement turns out to be pure gold!
He becomes even more incredulous the following day when the experience is repeated. Day after day, the farmer awakens to rush to the nest and find another golden egg. He becomes extremely wealthy; it all seems too good to be true.
But with his increasing wealth comes greed and impatience. He was solely concerned with the golden egg (what is produced) that he decided to cut open the producing asset (goose) and get them all at once. But when he opens the goose, he finds it empty. There are no golden eggs -and now there is no way to get it anymore-the farmer has destroyed the goose that produced them.
True Effectiveness lies in the P/PC Balance
Within this fable is a natural law, a principle-the basic definition of effectiveness. Most times people see effectiveness from the golden egg paradigm: the more you produce, the more you do, the more effective you are. But as the story shows, true effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (golden eggs) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (goose). Thus, true effectiveness lies in the balance. The P/PC Balance:
P = Production of desired results (golden eggs)
PC = Production capability/ability or asset that produces the result (goose)
Application of the P/PC Balance Principle
Basically there are three types of assets: physical, financial and human. Let’s look at each one in turn.
In our quest for short term results or returns, we often ruin a prized physical asset. When we focus solely on what we get from our physical assets, for example, let’s say a car (in this case, ‘convenient transportation’ would be our golden egg) and we don’t take care of the car (goose) that makes the convenient transportation (golden egg) possible. We would soon lose the goose (car) and ultimately the golden egg (convenient transportation). Our body/health could also pass as a physical asset.
Many times people confuse principal with interest. Have you ever invaded principal (goose) to increase your standard of living (golden egg)? The decreasing principal has decreasing power to produce interest or income until it will no longer be capable of supplying even the basic needs the business needs to run.
This tends to carry even more importance because people controls both physical and financial assets. For example, when two people in a relationship are more concerned about getting the golden eggs (benefits), than they are in preserving the relationship (goose) that makes them possible, the people often become inconsiderate and insensitive thereby neglecting the little kindness and courtesies that are very important to a deep relationship. With this, the goose (relationship) get sicker and sicker by day.
When we fail to respect the P/PC Balance in our use of physical asset in organizations, we decrease the organizational effectiveness and often leave others with dying geese. Let’s take for example a person in charge of a physical asset, such as a machine, who may be eager to make a good impression on his superiors. He produces at optimum levels-no downtime, no maintenance. He runs the machine day and night. The production output is fantastic, at low cost, and profits skyrocket! Within a short time, he’s promoted. Golden eggs!
But let’s assume you end up succeeding him on the job. You inherit a sick machine (goose) that, by now, is worn-out, rusted and starts to break down. You now have to invest heavily in downtime and maintenance. Costs went up; profits nose-dive. And who gets blamed for the loss of golden eggs? You do. Your predecessor liquidated the asset, but the accounting system only reported unit production, costs, and profit.
The P/PC Balance is particularly important when applied to the human assets of an organization-the customers and the employees.
If you violate the trust of your customer by providing them with sub-par products/services (watering down your offering), in the meantime, you may succeed in keeping cost down and revenues constant thereby zooming your profit. But little by little, the customer will begin to disappear and you’ll lose the asset of customer loyalty. There will be no more goose to produce the golden egg.
On the other hand, there are organizations that talks a lot about the customer and completely neglect the people who deal with the customer- the employees. The PC Principle is to always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers. You may buy a person’s hand but you can’t buy his heart. His heart is where his enthusiasm and loyalty is. You can buy his back, but you can’t buy his brain. That’s where his creativity is, his ingenuity, his resourcefulness is.
Excessive focus on P results in ruined health, worn-out machines, depleted bank accounts, and broken relationships.
Too much focus on PC is like a person endlessly going to school, never producing, living on other people’s golden eggs.
It is often a difficult judgement call to maintain the P/PC Balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) however, I believe this is the very essence of effectiveness.
It is validated in every arena of our life. We can decide to work with it or against it, but it’s always there. It’s a lighthouse.
Article by: Timilehin Abodunrin