Intellectual Self Defence

Brains are delicate things…

Efficiency versus Effectiveness

These are both measures of ‘success.’ Effectiveness is about whether the job got done or not. Efficiency is about costs and benefits in getting that job done. But if the people making the decisions take the benefits and palm off the costs onto others, then ‘efficiency’ can get pretty inefficient. This is what is usually meant by the ‘efficiencies’ of capitalism, transnational corporations, globalisation- it’s very efficient if you are on top….

After all, if you don’t pay your overheads, your gross is net.

Sometimes, effectiveness doesn’t seem efficient; enormous outlays are needed to achieve what seem like small gains. But if by NOT putting the work in, you wind up dead, or extinct, then how efficient was keeping your energy outlays low? Think peacocks who skimp on tails and don’t get laid, or medieval states that don’t tax the peasants to pay for new military kit/mercenaries and get invaded (Charles Tilly, Capital Coercion and European States 990-1990 AD). Enormous and ‘inefficient’ outlays are going to be needed in the next 20-30 years if humans are going to convert from fossil fuels and build some hatches to batten down for the coming storms.

See this comment on Johnnie Moore’s January 2011 blog post about efficiency

Efficiency is the subtext cousin of the “lean, mean, right-sized” approach to all organisational development.

The reality is that so-called “fat” or inefficiency provides resources that are necessary for adaption to change. Fat enables an organism to go without nourishment for a short time while it finds new resources to replace those that have changed or vanished.

It astounds me that we have had a simultaneous push both for “efficiency” and “innovation”. When you are proposing to make major changes to your life support system, you prepare by fattening up – imagine the European settlers of the US west setting out for the unknown in a “lean and mean” condition.

Efficiency + innovation = suicide.

See also: Taylorism

One comment on “Efficiency versus Effectiveness

  1. Pingback: Having a field day, efficiently and/or effectively «

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