Why should we care more for Effectiveness over Efficiency?
I think that the most important thing to do before I go on is to define what the terms mean to me;
If an artefact is produced effectively then its objectives are achieved and the problems it should resolve are answered.
If an artefact is produced ineffectively, then it is not worth the paper that it is written on.
If an artefact is produced efficiently then then tasks are completed in the least amount of time possible with the least amount of resources possible.
If an artefact is produced inefficiently, then the creators are taking the long road and it costs more than it should.
I believe in its purest form effectiveness is evaluated without measuring costs. This can be problematic when we overlay commercial reality on to a report, artefact or process. It becomes doubly complicated as I consider effectiveness and efficiency to be mutually exclusive.
One of the common issues that I come across is the confusion between prescriptiveness and effectiveness. It is my experience that trying to force people (and teams) into an overly prescriptive approach is seen as dictatorial and authoritarian and counterproductive to both efficiency and effectiveness.
I can produce a test plan in a day. It will largely be a template, solution agnostic and while it will look and feel like a test plan, and it will tell you what we are testing, and where the risks are etc. It will not evolve off the paper into a framework for actually doing the job, in effect it becomes shelfware and adds no value.
I can produce a test plan in a month, it will be a work of art, prescriptive, articulate all flows, processes, the risks, the mitigations. It will not only tell you what we are testing but, how, where, who, and why. It will not survive the first month of execution and become a rock upon which testing will be shackled at every turn. In effect it becomes shelfware and adds no value.
I think of an effective document as a compass as opposed to a roadmap.
A roadmap captures the layout at a point in time. If the area that is described changes, as an example, they build a new motorway, you cannot use it as you do not know where to get on or off. The worst part is that you can look at a roadmap and see the motorway and know they must have removed a road to make it, so what you have is irrelevant, you know that, but it is all that you have.
A compass always points north and from there you can always relatively figure out where you need to go. If you need to go west, you can always derive that from the compass regardless of the underlying landscape or changes. Even if they remove the roads and plant a forest, you still know which way is west.
So what are the attributes of an effective report, artefact or process?
- It produces the desired result
- Its outcome is relevant to its audience or consumer
- It provides a framework within which to solve problems
- Its value is greater than the cost to produce it
- It maintains relevance over the course of is life
Peter Drucker has said: “Plans are worthless, but planning is invaluable.” My experience in ICT, tends to align with this. The planning process is invaluable, but most of the artefacts that I have created or read, in my ICT career have not remained relevant over their intended life. I think this is one of the fundamental changes that we need to make for Waterfall 2.0.
So while I consider effectiveness over efficiency to be mutually exclusive we should still look to a produce an effective document in the most efficient manner (never losing site that the governing rule is effectiveness).