I must admit that I read almost anything about how to be better organized. I like to know that it is important to make your bed every day, fold socks like sushi so they are happy, make checklists for important projects and pick up items only once to organize them. I agree being organized helps us in decision making.

What I don’t like is spending time getting organized when it does not help produce a result. I believe that being effective is much more important than being efficient, yet I sense both are important. So I began my search to find out how to do both.

My first job out of graduate school was as a guidance counselor at a community college in CA. My colleagues and I examined why the same problems in our department happened repeatedly. We took courses in communication skills, scheduling, time management, conflict resolution, writing goals, strategic planning, making people happy, leadership and assertiveness training. We did better for a while and there was always some improvement but in the long run, we went back to a “business as usual” mindset. We really tried. Nothing stuck. I did learn some tips on how to be more efficient but not how to be more effective.

Finally, three jobs later, moving from the west to the east coast, having a baby and moving from CT to FL, I heard about a methodology that answered how to be both effective and efficient so that solutions stick. I attended training sessions and studied. I learned that the difference in what I tried in the past focused on people’s behavior, NOT on the structures that influence behavior. Structure influences behavior and culture. Structure makes it stick. If there is no supportive organic structure and no alignment around why you are doing what you are doing as a company, the best ideas will not produce permanent results. The improvement will be temporary. People will eventually get discouraged, stop trying and will expect the leaders to fix it. The culture will become risk averse and will stagnate.

So, what is the effective structure?

First, change the focus from people to the mechanisms for working and what is not working. How do you make decisions? Ask if you are making decisions that are short-term and/or long-term oriented. Do you only expect individuals with high levels of authority to implement solutions? Do you use teams designed for specific tasks? Do you have the right authority at the right levels? Do you have gender and ethnic balance?

Second, make sure that everyone, from custodian to CEO, knows the vision – where you are going – and knows their role in getting there. Have a healthy combination of short-term tasks AND long-term task teams to meet the Vision. Do you use Vision teams that are led by the right people regardless of their titles? Do you support teams making decisions vs recommendations? Do you reward risk taking? Do you have a good balance of women at all levels of authority?

Third, use a consistent and organic decision-making process or mechanism. Provide the right amount of time and the right tools so that solutions can be implemented. Do you look at core competency development as part of a successful conclusion? Is there a budget for new projects so that teams and individuals know their guardrails? Is everyone encouraged to talk and contribute for the good of the company? Do you strive to remove silos?

The fast pace of our times requires resiliency and wisdom that seeks effectiveness beyond the mistakes, looks at how decisions are made as well as which decisions are made and who makes them. The new normal accept that traditional business models must be improved upon for long-term success.

What I learned, once I changed my focus from people (who) to the mechanisms (how), is that how problems are solved (effective) is essential for success. The “how to” guardrails (efficient) make it timely. Paramount to producing long-lasting results depends on how problems are solved by the right people and how the implementation is supported by the right people.

The mechanism we implement at FarVision is simple to learn, produces results and can be applied in a variety of circumstances. Our mechanism is very well suited to women decision makers because the result is “problem solved” and the solution implemented for the long run and for the benefit of all.