Excellence – Efficiency – Economy: Pick Two

In 1993 I was invited to join a small task force formed to study online community, or group dynamics in cyberspace (that was the buzz-word in ’93) and make recommendations in this growing venue.

We discovered early-on that online business activity can promote two of the three E’s above, but not all three. The most successful, it seemed, major on only one. As we discussed it further we agreed that the same is true in “real-time” business and community life. Excellence, Efficiency, or Economy. You can have two, but not all three.

I came in contact with a live-example of that principle recently, a company that has majored in Excellence for 20 years and is thriving as a result. When they say “we use only state of the art components” they mean it. I heard the owner tell about situations when he has had to say “someone will probably be able to sell you something cheap, but I’m afraid it won’t be us.” They don’t have any salesmen; they don’t need any. “It’s all we can do to keep up with the requests for our services.” Their advertising budget is primarily word of mouth – and they’re international in their scope. Pretty impressive record! What’s more, they’re personable!

Yes, it can be done. Not overnight, naturally, but it can be done.

I’m thinking about that principle today as it relates to my life and work:

Do I want to exemplify Excellence? Absolutely.  I have, I do, and hope I always will.
Perfectionism is a liability, but the pursuit of excellence is a virtue. Absolutely. I want to be an example of excellence in my work with people, in my writing, in my relationships with family and friends, in my walk with God.

Efficiency? Yes, but not at excellence’s expense. Efficiency can be an expression of Excellence; no wasted time, no wasted motion in the accomplishment of a task or mission. Sometimes Excellence just takes longer. I want to always take the time to reach for it. Efficiency? Yes. Provided it doesn’t pull Excellence from an A to an A-.

Economy? Personally, this isn’t a word I want to describe me or my ministry. “He’s cheap – so are his results.” No way, I’m not selling that. I’ll buy less expensive so I can send my money in a better direction, and there are vendors I frequent because they put a decent product on the shelf for less than their competitors. They’re not marketing excellence, though. They’re pushing economy and there’s a place for that – no doubt about it.  Buying economical over here can help reach excellence in another facet of life or ministry. When people look in my direction I want to be associated with the word Excellence. I really don’t want them to associate my work or my ministry with inexpensive; “he got by with minimal effort and expense”.

I want my name to be a synonym for excellence among those who know me well. To do that I need to maintain the “Whatever It Takes” mentality I adopted as a high-school student.  I need to intentionally apply it spiritually, relationally with my family and friends, and vocationally.

How about you? When interested friends and associates look at your goods, what’s the tag say? What would you LIKE it to say?

If “glorify God” means “draw attention to Him” how would your life best do that?
Think about it a bit, see what the Lord impresses on you to do. It’s never to late to adjust.

One Reply to “Excellence – Efficiency – Economy: Pick Two”

  1. Vonnie

    Dear Big Brother,
    Here it is a month since you wrote this. I’m not sure when I read it, but I put those three words on a sticky note on my computer, and have been mulling them over since then.
    For example: the bathroom trashcan. It’s not something that must be done with excellence. It’s okay to go for the economy and use plastic grocery bags. It’s okay to go for efficiency and have a few folded bags in the bottom so they’re handy when it needs emptied.
    But my spiritual life? My kids’ schoolwork? Our ministry? We must strive for excellence. I’ve shared your thoughts with several friends. Last night I was told, “That’s been a help to me. Thank you for sharing it.”
    THANK YOU, Phil, for sharing this. You’ve helped several of us to think, and to set some priorities. And I know I’ll enter our homeschooling year with a new desire for Excellence!
    Love you,

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