From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Efficiency in general describes the extent to which time, effort or cost is well used for the intended task or purpose. It is often used with the specific purpose of relaying the capability of a specific application of effort to produce a specific outcome effectively with a minimum amount or quantity of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort. “Efficiency” has widely varying meanings in different disciplines.

From my humble beginnings on a Kansas farm and continuing through my time as a college student and later as a commercial banker, I was always viewed myself (and I am sure others would agree), as being “lazy.” Little did I know, as I came to realize later in life, was that I was just trying to be more “efficient.” That made me feel much better! It was viewed by many as a badge of honor to be the hardest worker on the farm, even it meant doing things the hard way. I on the other hand was always seeking ways to accomplish a task or end result with the least amount of wasted time and energy. I lobbied my Dad for years for the big round baler to do our annual haying rather than being on the end of a hay hook hauling square bales on what seemed like 100 degree days. He finally bought my argument and converted to big round bales the year I went off to college!

During my banking career, I was the first to adopt a PC in our bank and use spreadsheets for monthly cash flow analysis. Making changes to assumptions and seeing the updates was much easier than erasing and tedious recalculating of every month and column on a paper spreadsheet. Was that being lazy or more efficient? Later, I began preparing all of my credit presentations in a word document while everyone else would handwrite a form and hand off to a secretary to type. I was whipping out credit presentations in half the time and never had to wait on a secretary again every time I needed to make changes. I was able to walk in at 8:00 a.m. or later and leave on or before 5:00 a.m. on most days while all of the other loan officers would arrive at 7:00 a.m. and stay until 6:00 p.m. They had to work longer hours to accomplish the same amount of work on portfolios smaller than I was assigned. Guess who senior management viewed as being a hard worker? You got it…the person who put in the long hours. If you put in 11 hours a day, you were a hard worker and were rewarded financially each year.

If you don’t mind, I want to call BS on this. I did back then, and I continue to do so today.  If you are a CEO or Senior Manager and this is how you recognize and reward workers based on time at work vs. actual results and productivity, then it is time to rethink how you think about work, efficiency, and results. If you reward workers based on hours at work, most will game the system and spend their time looking for the most inefficient way to accomplish their job in order to fill up hours rather than doing actual work and meeting the results you really want.

What I find interesting is that CEOs and executive management in almost every industry strive to achieve more results with fewer resources in order to maximize profitability. However, outdated industrial thinking and management styles that some continue to practice are in direct conflict with that goal. At Suntell, we exist because in 1996, I was “lazy.” Originating or renewing an existing credit was the most inefficient, worksheet-driven, and paper intensive process I could ever tolerate. I quit the bank to help found Suntell and what is today the Square 1 Credit Suite. I would like to think we addressed the majority of the inefficiencies in the process of loan and document management in this system.

Our company not only talks the talk, but we walk the walk. In 2010 we implemented ROWE: a Results Only Work Environment. Our President, Ronnie Wooten spearheaded this cultural change in our organization and it has led to fantastic results. We now communicate and focus only on results of each associate. We treat them like adults. In 2+ years, we have had zero turnover and improved results in all operational and financial areas of the company. Industrial age management to reward long hours and having employees gaming the system with ‘face-time’ have been replaced with a focus only on results. No results = no job. Now everyone is focused on ‘efficiency’ of their work and meeting results.

Am I being “lazy” or just more “efficient”? I will let you decide. Have a great summer and as always, thank you for your business and loyal support.

Duane Lankard
CEO