On Productivity

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Post by: Sigurd Rinde

“Productive effort, measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input”

And I bet you that the next word that is popping up in your head now is efficiency: “Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense”

All well and good and what managers are focused on every day at the office. And of course what Enterprise Software is all about; faster, better, more.

But hang on a second, so far we have talked about “how we do things”, so far not much about “what we do”.

Which of course would be highly interesting for the profits and the long term wellbeing of any project or company. In fact, that’s the only place where growth comes from. When did you last find any volume growth in efficiency increases?

Eight chaps engaging in effective water transport instead of rowing efficiently in eight different boats.

Where did the pursuit of effectiveness go? Who’s focused on “what we do” and the effectiveness of the whole organisation and business endeavour? Of course the founders when they started, that goes without saying, then the board every now and then under the umbrella of “strategy”.

But should it not be a daily focus for all I wonder…

After all effectiveness always beats efficiency. Efficiency is all about running faster from A to B, while finding out if going to B is a waste of time and that walking directly to C makes better overall sense is about effectiveness. 

In reality efforts to increase effectiveness should precede efforts to increase efficiency every day. That’s logical.

The problem is threefold I think:

  • Efficiency is like the daily shower, results are instantly measurable, the feeling is warm and fuzzy. Hence something that becomes an easy habit, enticing management to choose this above addressing effectiveness issues with way harder to measure results.
  • Efficiency is on the micro level; anybody can do something with it, while effectiveness involves many.
  • IT is all focused, and indeed created, to increase efficiency, not at all built for changes to “what we do”. On the contrary, effectiveness enhancements often means changes to, or even replacement, of IT systems.

Add that efficiency has a smaller and smaller incremental potential over time, the curve simply flattens out. While effectiveness is a never ending pursuit with definitely no smooth curve, it produces leaps and bounds in profits and overall success.

I think it’s time to put the pursuit of efficiency where it belongs, behind the effectiveness pursuit. Both becoming daily pursuits.

Now only to find the IT that suits that approach!

[Guess you know me so you don’t need much of a hint…]

Original Post: http://blog.thingamy.com/sigs_blog/2011/03/on-productivity.html