PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
The theme of the PMRC, IPMA-China, Congress held August 24-25 2013, in Wuhan China, inspired this article. The theme is Efficiency and Effectiveness in Project Management, and both Mladen Radujkovik, IPMA President, and I presented keynotes. This article provides more details on the first half of my topic, Balance Efficiency and Effectiveness With Actionable Project Information.
The 1960s were the era of the Efficiency Expert. These were people with training or skills in process optimization, who then moved into productivity improvement, which became a buzzphrase of the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, practitioners merged productivity improvement with interpersonal skills. This became the foundation of the systems analyst or business analyst of the 1980s. Look how far we’ve come! Today we have certifications for people who demonstrate many of these skills—and more. Efficiency became part of an entire gamut of systems engineering disciplines. Efficiency is clearly important.
But, do we consistently apply Efficiency? Not really! In fact, the “re-engineering of the organization” in the 1980s and 1990s was not RE-engineering at all. It was the first-ever true engineering of poorly-designed processes, randomly piled on top of other processes during the ’70s and ’80s. The efficiency focus benefited projects, because many project managers brought efficiency and productivity into their projects. How do I know? I learned from some of the best during that time.
One problem with this emphasis on efficiency was evident in many organizations’ initiatives over the last 50 years. We can go overboard—sometimes focusing so much on efficiency that we forget about effectiveness. Part of this is because it is easier to look at efficiency; easy to identify it; to measure it. You see, efficiency by itself can be dangerous: If you look up Efficiency Expert on Wikipedia, one section notes: see also Layoffs.