Contemplating effectiveness

Efficiency is the easy route in business. It’s simple to discuss. It feels natural to talk about. It aligns with the fact that we usually pay people for their time, not their results. It seems logical that improving business would be about being more efficient. But efficiency only reduces the cost. It doesn’t increase the net value, in fact, it may decrease the net value if it hampers quality.

Effectiveness, on the other hand, is focusing on doing the right thing. An efficacious organization has the capacity to be effective. In doing the right thing, it’s easy to increase the net value created. It simply involves doing things that are likely to be more valuable. It doesn’t even require being efficient, that’s just icing on the cake.

Efficiency can be toxic when contemplating improvement. As such, I find it refreshing to contemplate only being more effective. Even if it means a reduction in perceived efficiency. For example, slowing down, instead of speeding up, an existing process. Because I added something to make myself more effective. Thus increasing the net value.

For example, sometimes I look at improvements in how I help others work and I point out that there will be a learning curve and more work involved. I immediately try to justify those “costs” with the added value. As if the costs are potentially a reason not to follow through. And that we should work to minimize those costs. When in fact, a learning curve may be a sign of opportunity to learn things that should be learned. Learning that shouldn’t be minimized, but instead explored for further value, further effectiveness. I fail to exploit further learning because of an obsession over efficiency.

Take something you know deep down has been immensely valuable to the way you do business. Try to do a postmortem on it, in terms of the effectiveness it affords. But don’t at all discuss efficiency. When you’re done with your effectiveness postmortem, ask yourself if that alone would be reason enough to do it the same way, if you had the chance to do it all over again. Is efficiency even a substantial part of what you were trying to accomplish? What could you enhance about what you did by being inefficient.

What if you banished efficiency from business rationale, what could you accomplish that a focus on efficiency keeps you from accomplishing?