The subtle threat of effectiveness

06/30/2011

From a business perspective, history is littered with organizations guilty of being too effective. It can come subtly in the form of desire for perfection of the end result.

Many business leaders fall into this trap. I know I do at times.

Keep in mind this quote from the famous philosopher Voltaire:

“The better is the enemy of the good.”

(Sometimes translated as “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”)

Paraphrasing – sometimes, good is good enough. You can spend forever tweaking, fixing, repairing, perfecting in search of the optimal result and go crazy in trying to reach it.

This has been turned on its head in the more current incarnation from Jim Collins – author of Good to Great – with his book opener:

“Good is the enemy of great.”

Taken out of context, this quote can be dangerously mis-interpreted.

At face value, this phrase can seem to indicate that individuals and organizations should not settle for being merely good enough. Rather, we should all reach for greatness.

In fact, if you read the book in entirety, he makes the case that striving for greatness is balanced with the concept of a profitable business. At no time does he advocate greatness at any cost.

So, if effectiveness, like efficiency, isn’t as desirable as it sounds, where does that leave us?

Azamba, my organization, believes in a concept called “effecticiency” – a balance between being effective and efficient. We’ll be visiting this over the next few posts.

Thanks for reading – see you soon!

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