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What Befits Us Best

– Becoming Effective or Efficient?

There is a never-ending debate involving the connotations of the terms, ‘effective’ and ‘efficient’. Some maintain that it is too academic to imply a basic difference between the meanings of the two and as per their opinion, when isolated; one is liable not to carry any meaning and be a reality without the ingredients of the other. The opposing camp controverts by the logic that ‘effective’ and ‘efficient’ are two distinctly separate ideas and one of them does need not to be supplemented by another. For the purpose of our immediate deliberation this controversy needs to be resolved first.

To begin with, it is best to admit that there is a controversy. The oft cited example of a road bridge or a railway over bridge which, though constructed with the best possible technical efficiency, may turn out to be of least help in term of public usage, is not likely to satisfy the doubting debater when it comes to the question of using human potentials – intellect, emotion, imagination, values orientation, creative feelings, love, affections etc. A person in his role of shaping up a better world around him, a continuous process, through his daily activities needs most of these attributes, if not all at a time, to become efficient and effective. Else, we may say, efficient or effective. The example of the bridge, though may be apt to imply the difference between the efficiency and effectiveness of an inanimate object, may not and in many cases is not suitable to describe the functional features of a human being and to pinpoint the dividing line between an effective person and the efficient one.

Still, from our experience many of us may have seen quite a few functionaries in the different spheres of activities, - office, politics, social service, play fields and even religion who, even becoming undeniably efficient failed to be effective. Sunil Gavaskar’s efficiency and effectiveness, both, as an opener in test cricket are exemplary and will go down in the history of test cricket as proverbial. But his effectiveness as an opener or even a team member of India’s one-day cricket team is liable to raise eyebrows of many cricket connoisseurs in doubt. Opening an innings and surviving to the last ball all through a spell of full sixty overs with only thirty six runs on the score board may be quite effective for test innings but most likely to be a disaster for a one day cricket match, His efficiency, though, remains unchallengeable in both events. Conversely, Chetan Chowhan, the medium pacer of Indian national team for sometime, curved out a place in the history of Indian cricket when he reached a hatrick by dismissing the third batsman in a row in three consecutive deliveries in a Sharjah one day cricket tournament years back. No doubt, by his awe inspiring spell, he played an effective role for Indian team in the match. But as far as his relative efficiency as a bowler is concerned he was not as efficient as his other contemporary team mates like Kapil Dev or Ravi Shastri who could sustain their tenure in the national team much longer for their enduring efficiency and not transitory effectiveness as was the fact in Chetan’s case.

From the above two examples one may tend to deduce that the efficient can not be effective or in the other way round the effective has only little scope of being efficient. This is a fallacy and a gross fallacy too. The truth remains that enduring effectiveness needs the component of efficiency to a considerable extent and a good mix of the two can only ensure the ideal outcome. The terrorist movement against the British raj in select areas of Bengal and Punjab ultimately failed to bear much impact despite some extent of effectiveness within the local limits of Chittagong, Midnapore and Calcutta. This was possibly for inefficient planning of events and inadequate ground work for ensuring people’s participation at the optimum level. The same observation applies to the INA venture of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose against the British which could achieve only some uncertain amount of effect, inspite of the highly efficient leadership of one of the greatest of the national heroes the world has ever seen. On the reverse, extremely efficient work plan and effective management of the then prevailing situation of the country guided by an apt understanding of the national psyche brought exemplary success for the satyagraha movement of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma’s call for non-cooperation against the British and involvement of the entire nation for liberation of the country could mobilize the vast population of India despite her wide variety of culture, languages, social habits, even religion.

So we may agree that becoming efficient does not necessarily mean becoming effective and one may be effective, at least temporarily and to limited extent in given situations by not being efficient. Also, to be truly effective one needs to develop in the frame of his personality a good amalgam of efficiency and effectiveness, two complementary traits required of a person at the helm of affairs.

To be effective in a sustainable manner and not to be motivated for narrow gains is what is required of an ideally poised officer. This is easier said than done but not a difficult idea to understand. Many years ago when I got posted as BDO of a Development Block in Birbhum district for seven to ten days I was simply dazed to see that one Extension Officer was almost the be all and end all for the BDO’s establishment. All the field level functionaries which consisted of the Prodhans of the GPs and officials like Deep Tubewell Operator, his assistants, Veterinary and Livestock Assistant, Assistant Agricultural Extension Officer, Krishi Prayukti Sahayaks and even the Bank officials working within the Block jurisdiction and entrusted with the processing and sanction of Govt. approved agricultural and rural development schemes would ask for the whereabouts of the officer whenever they visited the office. Many of the Panchayat Samity members including the Savapati and the Sahakari Savapati, many of the Karmadhakyas and a sizeable section of the staff members were equally fond of and would be running after him. I found the village youths living within the Block also to be hovering around him when he visited their areas and I would be very impressed, also amused to see that when the BDO received a casual invitation to be present during the final match of a football tournament as a chief guest, he would be invited with special warmth to preside over the function. The officer was in charge of relief management and there was no calamity or exigency of relief operation as imminent or in the recent past.

Though a strong feeling of disgust and discontent started gripping me for the obvious reason that conceding the space which lay given to him by my predecessor in office I would never be able to assume the position and exercise the authority as was constitutionally expected of me, I did not allow any urge for retaliation to get better of me. I decided to stay cool, probe the secret of his popularity and take time to size him down to his deserved position. I called for the files he dealt with and was surprised to discover that he dealt in all matters assigned to the Block administration. I found that he was in the habit of working in a spirit of utmost ad hocism. He had no respect for official as well as financial norms and neither had the capability of understanding the necessity and sanctity of the norms. He enjoyed running his own Government in his own fashion and was very quick in his disposal. He had an enviably good physique, lived the life of a forced bachelor staying in a working mess near the office and was prompt at service whenever called for and whatever he might be asked to perform in total ignorance of family demands. He would stay awake night after night in the events of emergency and would lead a team of his choice with full command. He was effective in more senses than one but for limited purpose and in situations when abrupt action was called for. But he was not efficient in the true meaning of the term as his sole interest lay restricted to being effective only to his hangers on, vying for fast and short cut remedies to their problems, mostly by unholy means. This provocation for being always sought after by diminishing others in the circuit to the virtual extent of nonentity, even the office-master, did not trigger or ceased to trigger any motivation for being efficient for this man.

Efficiency generates from knowledge, knowledge of financial and official propriety, knowledge of acts, rules, orders, circulars, memos, manuals, codes and even landmark decisions venerated for long down the years and quoted as precedents in similar situation by officers and employees far and near. One can earn a short-lived distinction of being effective, quite often mistaken to be efficient, only by being the ‘yes boss’ type. By being extremely alienable to the verge of being a stooge, ready to yield to any diktat of the man/ woman he serves for, a person can be (and not quite rarely expected either) to be known as effective even in the domain of public service. This may bring him out of turn career mobility, incentives in terms of foreign tours and trainings, a plot of land to build a house in the most prime location of his choice on special priority, press coverage and so on. But this effectiveness, wrongly construed to be efficiency at times, unfailingly wears out too fast as Newton’s law of motion putting the man, woman or the system served, into disrepute, even damage, beyond repair. History stands witness to this. This has happened to Emperors, Nawabs, Maharajas, Zamindars, despots and autocratic rulers, elected public representatives assuming the highest power as the head of a State or a country. Examples are galore and no individual instance needs to be cited. The reason is very easy to be understood. Trust and dependence are reposed in the apparent worthiness of an intrinsically unworthy person under perverse spell of his sycophancy, pseudo will and ability to serve.

The truly efficient person can be effective by honest will, but no one can be truly and enduringly effective without being efficient. The officer described in the foregoing paragraph is an example of this precept. Not only that he had little respect for financial propriety, his knowledge of financial norms and formalities, terms and conditions laid down in an order of sanction was also poor. After I joined my office as BDO I found that he had successfully got my predecessor persuaded to release the full amount in advance to about twenty-five Panchayat members, to the tune of about twenty thousand rupees for each, sanctioned by the Government for reconstruction of flood devastated primary schools. Not even a single school had been built over years and no record of progress or utilization of fund thus advanced was available. To keep local youths in good humor and enjoy their continued admiration I found him to have sanctioned marginal face-lifting of an existing football ground in an affluent village under test-relief scheme, as would be earmarked then for employment generation in villages having a populace below the poverty level or hard hit by calamity. Sanction for each such scheme was usually for twenty-eight thousand rupees and the standard scheme taken up for the purpose was for building or rebuilding of village roads.

Rupees twenty thousand or twenty-eight thousand in 1980 was quite a healthy sum of money. The BDO’s monthly salary at that time as a class-I gazetted officer was only eight hundred rupees a month and the DM’s may be just the double. A lot, as easily understood, could be done with those amounts for the poor, prudently and meticulously spent. My Block had several backward villages that would have to do altogether without even a single, regular village path. My predecessor did not leave at the time of his transfer with quite a good reputation, at least on these counts. I withdrew all major responsibility, mainly charge of elections and Integrated Rural Development Programme, a coveted and notorious ground money minting ground, in easy collusion with the financing Banks that time. In few months’ time this Extension Officer faded into non-significance and began losing his dubious popularity. Thoroughly hurt and grumbling inside, he acted fast and left for posting in his own district on own seeking. Unfortunately and let his soul rest in peace, he did not live long after he left my Block, may out of repentance for his past deeds or may be out grief for losing his position, virtually the number one of Block administration and factually the number two, and opportunity of making unaccounted money. Many illnesses are psycho-somatic and are powerful enough to terminate one’s life, sure and quick. Conversely, time tested values are the real components that sustain existence in peace and tranquility of not only an individual but an entire family, a dynasty and over and above the entire universal creation.

So, to sum up, one has to be efficient to be truly effective and one can not afford to be effectively efficient either, without cultivating the attribute of benign effectiveness, aimed always at reaping the harvest of common welfare of all and alike, not the motivated welfare for a chosen few. Being effective and efficient needs one to be a man of character, not only in an office but also in a family, a community and in a team of whatever shape and description it may be. The key words are integrity, sincerity, impartiality, broadness of outlook and attitude, patience, punctuality, capacity to build, maintain and develop interpersonal relationship, empathy, introspection, capacity to take quick decision, will and power of taking responsibility, strength of character to stay away from indulging in blame game and blame shifting. Staying healthy, calm and stressfree is very important for being effective and efficient on the optimum level, though not quite easy. Meditation for few minutes twice a day in the morning and the evening shall come as a sure help. It does not matter what method is followed, traditional, transcendental or personal. It may be by way of surrender to the will of the ever benevolent Creator of the Universe or by invoking the power of sub- conscious mind operating in every one of us.

God may be a delusion to many and one may not need to believe in the existence of God to get rid of the evils stress.

But what one surely needs is faith in his own self.


More by :  Gautam Sengupta

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