- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Organisational culture shaping. Counterinsurgency field manual (and 5 of 5): Be a bit inefficient if you want to be effective. Or you can be boring

The problem with super efficacy and super efficiency is that what works for a Swiss watch does not work for an organism. The organization is actually an organism, more than an organization.

I have written many times in these posts that you need to be a bit inefficient in order to be very effective.  Whilst efficiency will give you predictability (‘does what it says in the can’, the expression goes) it will never give you effectiveness. Being effective is achieving beyond expectations and solving problems you did not know you had to solve. So, an effective outcome may simply not be the one that was predicted ‘in an efficient way’, but one that actually is much better.

This argument positions predictive performance and innovation in a collision course. All that is needed in efficiency and ‘performance’ (predictability, replicability/reliability, no waste) is a problem for innovation, where you need unpredictable answers and the ability to have slack in the system, that’s it, to be not-very-efficient). By the way, my definition of an innovative culture is one where people seek unpredictable answers, the predictable ones are already taken by the Very Efficient Company.

The tension is actually healthy and leadership must have the ability to navigate that tension, that journey backwards and forwards in the spectrum

But, there is no alternative. No slack, no buffer, not a bit of repetition, no shadow jobs, no overlapping roles (all those things  that traditionally we have been told,  at some point in our careers,  that were symptoms of bad management), no innovation, no adaptation, no effectiveness.

I love the always refreshing Rory Sutherland when saying:

The reason to avoid communism is not because it is inefficient, but because it tries to be too intelligent. Communism might be able to build a boring bridge or lathe factory, but it could never have created Red Bull: no bureaucracy could ever muster the level of insanity necessary to try charging £2 for a slightly disgusting drink in a tiny can. Its popularity defies explanation: it is the duck-billed platypus of the carbonated drinks world.

There you are.