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Determine How to Measure Efficiency By Larry Gadbaugh

Discover the Ultimate Measure for Efficiency

As leaders we’re responsible that our mission is advanced with efficiency. It’s an important part of our stewardship for our stakeholders. We track metrics to discern ROI for our outcomes.

At the same time, we face the tension between getting the work done and stewarding our relationships with the people who work with us and those we serve. It should cause us to wrestle with how we think about efficiency.

Life Lessons in Efficiency

My dad was a master carpenter and the superintendent for a general contractor. He was an efficiency expert. He was responsible to get every facility built with no time or money wasted. Everyone who worked under him knew that if they didn’t perform on time and on budget, they would answer to him. Believe me, he knew how to make his voice heard.

During school breaks, I worked as a gopher on my dad’s jobs. He made me literally run to get lumber and materials for the carpenters. I was certainly the least efficient employee on site. He was always on my case to hurry up, pay attention, do it right or do it over. I constantly heard him saying, “Dollar waiting on a dime!”

I remember my first task where dad supervised building a large church sanctuary. I was assigned to finish nailing the sheets of plywood according to code, in the years before the invention of the nail gun. After basic instructions, dad gave me a box of nails and a hammer. I quickly learned that pounding nails efficiently and accurately wasn’t my spiritual gift. My knees and hands and elbows became sore and tired before lunch time. When I began to sit down to pound, he told me to get off my butt and back on my knees. His view of efficiency differed from my idea of comfort. I would finally get the hang of it. My knees toughened up. I stopped bending so many nails. And I actually felt a sense of pride when the last sheet of plywood was nailed.

My dad’s commitment to efficiency was integrated with his commitment to building his son’s character. He saw this task as a prime opportunity to pound out some of this young man’s softness, lack of perseverance, and mechanical incompetence.

Long Term Versus Short Term

Here’s the point. Long term efficiency often requires short term inefficiency for the sake of equipping less-than-efficient people for long-term impact.

Recently I’ve been involved in a group writing project, led by an amazingly talented theologian and writer. It took fifteen of us about a year to prepare a document for public presentation. I told this friend,

“It would have been so much more efficient if you had just written this thing yourself!”

Upon reflection I see that he is crazy like a fox. All of us involved in the project have been transformed by the process. We have become ambassadors equipped for the mission the document communicates.

What did Jesus Do?

And then, there’s Jesus. Wouldn’t it have been more efficient for Jesus to write the New Testament himself, instead of assigning it to his apostles – none of whom envisioned making writing their career? Wouldn’t it have been more efficient for Jesus himself to go on a global speaking and healing tour after his resurrection, than to send his apostles who had hardly demonstrated themselves as spiritual MENSAs?

Learn from the Expert

Jesus is the ultimate efficiency expert. If God measured efficiency and success the way most of us do, he would bypass humans altogether. If his only goal was to establish his perfect, eternal kingdom ASAP, with zero mistakes and setbacks, he would have just done it all personally with no partnerships.

Thankfully, God integrates his bottom line with his absolute commitment to

“present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)

And you and I are key stewards in his strategy to bring about that outcome in all our responsibilities and relationships.

God delights to grant us insight on how to steward both the people and the mission of the work he has assigned to us. After all, that’s how he is working in and through you and me.


Larry Gadbaugh has served as CEO of First Image (Pregnancy Resource Centers) in Portland, Oregon for 20 years. A former pastor, he and Diane are married for 44 years, with five adult children.


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October 13, 2021

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