The Danger of Increased Efficiency

One of my most common rants is to try to dispell the notion that efficiency is the same thing as effectiveness.    To me, efficiency is doing work in the right way while effectiveness is doing the right work.  I often argue that the history of software emphasizes efficiency, as evidenced by the focus on automating existing processes.

As such, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Don Moyer’s short article in Sept issue of Harvard Business Review.  Don quotes Drucker’s warning that there is “surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”  To this, he adds Peter Keen’s warning that “even dramatic levels of process improvements don’t translate into better business performance.”

It’s pretty simple: focus on what you’re trying to achieve and then streamline the processes needed to reach those outcomes.  You’ll be effective. And efficient when you need to be.

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