One of my most common rants is to try to dispel the notion that efficiency is the same thing as effectiveness. While the words sound similar and are often used interchangeably, they mean something different. From my performance management perspective, efficiency is doing work in the right way while effectiveness is doing the right work.
As such, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Don Moyer’s short article in Harvard Business Review. Don quotes Drucker’s warning there is “surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” To this, he adds a Peter Keen quote “even dramatic levels of process improvements don’t translate into better business performance.” Both are reminders about the danger of increased efficiency.
I couldn’t agree more. In my own industry, I have often argued enterprise software overly emphasizes efficiency. This is evidenced by the focus on automating existing processes and can lead to unhealthy performance metrics.
Performance management provides a structured ‘logical’ framework to balance the efficiency and effectiveness. Start by focusing on what you’re trying to accomplish and then streamline the processes needed to reach those outcomes.
You’ll be effective for what’s important. And efficient on the things you need to be.