Why is efficiency such a bad thing?

Yle website published an interview with Sanna Suvanto-Harsaae’s, Chairman of the board of Posti. The essence of the article headlined ” Koronakriisi on hyvä hetki pohtia, keitä yrityksissä ei oikeastaan tarvita” freely translated, “Covid-19 situation is a good time to think who are needed in organizations,” resulted in several angry tweets. That made me think when did efficient business management and efficiency become such a negative word.

My personal opinion is that in a country where employee rights are substantial, it’s customary not to talk about efficiency since it has such a strong co-operation negotiation (YT-neuvottelut in Finnish) vibe in it. For the first time in a while, she is the one who dares to state out loud the fundamental element of a business. I see the essence in her comment as an urge to keep the business going. Not actively cutting jobs, but making sure there will be jobs in the future. Why is it that we can’t talk about this openly in the country that brags about its mentality towards brutal honesty? Last time I checked, you need to have a profitable company to employ people.

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is getting things done.”

We’ve all seen and heard about projects created, not because they were needed but because there were still a few euros in the budget. Or projects where the results will be outdated and unusable by the time a project is finished. Still, there are substantial organizational apparatus working for it.

It’s said the Holy Grail for every company is always to pursue the right goals and be efficient by using technological advances, not wasting time, and having better alignment and collaboration between employees. Many companies have their hearts in the right place – they know what goals they want to achieve, but are inefficient in attaining those goals.

Efficiency or productivity

Quoting Michael Deane, “next time someone tries to sell you advice on becoming more productive, make sure to consider if you wouldn’t be better off becoming more efficient.”

It feels like the top list of bad words of the business includes both efficiency as well as productivity. But what’s the difference and what do those words actually mean?

The definition of efficiency specifically points out that efficiency looks to minimize the amount of waste (busy work) involved in getting the job done. Productivity does not even mention it. It is not concerned with it.

Something to think is the approach to hiring someone to help with duties that aren’t your core knowledge and would therefore take longer. Hiring someone may seem like an expense, but if you consider how much of your time you would have back by deferring the administrative tasks to this new hire, it will make you more efficient in the long run.

Why Efficiency is good thing?

The  NVT Quality Certifications white paper reminds us that finding the sweet spot between effectiveness and efficiency is truly that ultimate goal for all companies.

When an organization or a team focuses on efficiency, they get a complete view of their processes. They find it easier to objectively and critically look at all that goes on between input and output (the procedures themselves). This makes it easier to find ways to improve the processes, free up resources for something else, or result in more value.

Whatever it is you are working on, not doing everything in your power to minimize the number of resources wasted is merely short-sighted.

Leaning up or cleaning up

I worked in Leonia Bank, which at that time, merged with Sampo – an insurance company, establishing the first this sized finance group in Finland. The merger resulted in a massive middle management cleanup since the structure was too heavy and expensive for the business. It felt unfair to lose a boss who I liked, and it took me some time to figure out why the decision was made. Looking back after more experience in different business aspects, it was for obvious reasons and probably the same I would make if I would have to make the same decision today. Suvanto-Harsaae says you can’t work on board if you think that everyone should like you.

Whether it’s about leaning up or cleaning up, all the organization’s positions should have real value to the business. As Suvanto-Harsaae says, there shouldn’t be nice to have-projects or too many directors. Things and people that won’t bring value to the company.

Efficiency doesn’t mean burn out employees

Bill Gates is often credited with the quote, “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

When we talk about organizational efficiency it means the organization’s ability to implement its plans using the smallest possible expenditure of resources. It is an essential factor in the firm’s organizational effectiveness, this being the ease and degree of success with which the organization can accomplish its aims.

But why is it so hard to see that efficiency also means doing your job with focus and in the best possible manner? That will leave you with more time to improve your skills, the processes at your workplace, or the mood of your team.

Another side of organizational efficiency, in my opinion, is that you are positioned in with the job description, which suites your internal motivations. Your job is full filling and gives you satisfaction. If you’re interested in doing your job and making sure you improve your skillset, through that, you’ll deliver added value to your organization.

Or what do you think?

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