Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Seduction of Process Efficiency

I'll never forget a conversation I had decades ago with an engineer from India.  I was trying to explain how Business Process Re-Engingeering (BPR) could be applied to make processes more efficient.  I was failing miserably and my engineer friend was confused.

In desperation, I talked about the tradeoff between capital and labor.  I explained that most BPR implementations usually involved some form of automation or information technology.  That the capital investment was offset by reduced labor costs.  "Ah, hah!" he exclaimed.  "We would never do where I come from.  Labor is cheap and capital is dear."
We suddenly realized together that BPR could work in his old neighborhood, just differently.  Processes could be re-engineered to use more labor (not less).  In the US, we use conveyor belts to unload luggage from airplanes with just a handful of laborers.  My friend explained that the last time he flew home his luggage was passed from hand to hand through a long line of laborers (like a bucket brigade).

Unfortunately, this desire to create process efficiency can get in the way of effective leadership.  An effective leader identifies, utilizes and develops the talents of his team.  Every member of his team.

When every member of the team is learning and growing, your team team becomes more effective.  And able to continually improve your processes.

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