Distinguishing Between Efforts and Results
“Who cares?” screamed the newspaper headline, the body of the article detailing alleged deficiencies in our child care system. I thought of the coincidental conversation I had just the night before with a friend whose job involves oversight of child care. This intelligent, caring individual was expressing his frustration with how much of his job is essentially useless paperwork, filling out redundant forms and creating virtually meaningless reports for various levels of government, primarily federal in his case.
He expends a great deal of effort but he is not able (through no fault of his own) to achieve much of the desired result (unless you desire realms of paper v. actual child care).
Most of us are limited in some respect, often by time, money, or energy. This is true for organizations as well as individuals. It is vital to remember that every time we say YES to a request for time, money, or other resource, we are saying NO to something else. There is only so much time, money, or energy available.
If we allocate our resources for maximum effectiveness and efficiency, then we need to remain aware of what we say no to. When Congress overspends and creates a deficit, we are saddling our children (perhaps, by now, our grandchildren) with debt. We’re saying no to them, denying them options and opportunities because we did not wish to discipline ourselves. When you consistently work late or spend your weekends on the golf course, you may be saying no to your family. When you buy more car or house than you need, or take that expensive vacation once too often, you may be saying no to your financial security at retirement time or your kids’ college educations.
A recent study by a Congressional panel found conflicts of interest abounded in the executive pay consulting field (Reported in The New York Times, 12/6/07). No kidding, Sherlock!
My father was on our local city commission and he shared with me the way that city staff frequently would tell the commission that staff was underpaid and that a consultant was needed to determine proper salary increases. Staff would present the commission with a “short list” of 3 to 5 consultants from which to chose. While this range of choices created the appearance of independence and the commission certainly could pick anyone it wished, as a practical matter, it chose from the list presented and, of course, every consultant listed would recommend a substantial pay raise.