The effectiveness movement is beginning to take hold in the academic and business community. A recent article by Roger L Martin, author and former Dean of the University of Toronto sets out the case for Rethinking Efficiency (Harvard Business Review article, January–February 2019 Issue).
Martin poses the question:
Beginning with Adam Smith, business thinkers have steadfastly regarded the elimination of waste as management’s holy grail. But what if the negative effects from the pursuit of efficiency eclipse the rewards?
Ditch efficiency for resilience
To answer this question he details the ways in which efficiency has negative impacts upon both organisations and society. How this leads to a small band of very large players who capture the market and use unfair tactics to maintain dominance. Undermining competition considered to be the ‘invisible hand’ in creative markets. Instead, he argues that resilience is the proper focus for organisations since ‘resilient systems are typically characterised by the features […] that efficiency seeks to destroy.’ For me resilience is a feature of organisations that pursue effectiveness. Creating positive reinforcing loops and new opportunities.
Effectiveness leads to better jobs
Martin goes on to highlight the other benefit of effective organisations, they create better jobs for workers to do (of all levels). He makes the case that this focus increases ‘longer-term productivity’ and value.