I was reading Hannah Deason’s profile blurb recently and it inspired me to talk about efficiency.

Hannah Deason: Senior Project Manager. Product Owner. Master planner, problem solver, and Americana Musician. Addicted to strong coffee, Frasier, and Instagram. Geeks out over efficiency, #WomenInTech, and social trends.

I too have a passion for efficiency, but for me it’s because ultimately, I want to be lazy. I want to accomplish things expending the least amount of work. I hate the idea of waste in my efforts. If my tombstone reads, “he wrote a script to eliminate a manual task,” I think I’d be happy.

Having a passion for efficiency also means, to some extent, a willingness or perhaps a drive to speak up about inefficiency. It takes a kind of person to whom I can’t relate to sit and wallow in a process that is inefficient or doesn’t make sense. There is a famous story about a Toyota plant worker who stopped the line because he could do his job faster if they moved his station 3 feet in one direction. For every one of those team members there are many, many more who don’t say anything.

I talked to Hannah about what lights her fuse about efficiency.

The potential for efficiency is deeply ingrained into every nook and cranny of our lives - How you order groceries, how you get to work, how you split the bill, etc.

Everything can be done faster; does that actually mean better? It’s easy to be efficient at doing things, but what if it’s the wrong thing?

For me, it’s less about efficiency on its own - and instead about how efficiency and effectiveness can be balanced to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

I’ve always liked puzzles... and that, is the ultimate kind. How do you find what the right this is, and then get really efficient at doing that?

For Me? Work backwards. Start with what we are solving, then break down the steps it takes to get there. Consolidate steps and weed out the junk. After a few cycles of that, you’ll be left with the foundation of a good process.

Define a process, measure the effectiveness against the goal. Then do it again. And again. And again.

The art of crafting efficient solutions.

The science of measuring the effectiveness.

The discipline to keep pushing further.

It’s a challenge fit for a problem solver with a rebel’s heart.

One of the main reasons we brought Agile Development into the company years ago was to address an efficiency problem. When teams are working on complex tasks together, communication is vital. If you don’t communicate well together, or don’t do it often enough, it’s almost a guarantee that much of the work you do will be thrown out or just plain wrong. Getting together daily for Scrum, talking about planning and architecture frequently, and doing a retrospective all contribute to a team understanding each other and the work better. And to being more efficient.

We have had clients who initially looked at the process as inefficient. How could paying for a conversation about getting better (a retrospective) make the project cost less? Isn’t that just waste? Wouldn’t talking about how to improve the project … improve the project? So often, teams struggle on knowing that something is horribly wrong with the project, but do nothing about it.

Over the years, we’ve accumulated some favorite references about efficiency.

Some key ideas

  • Communication will lead to solving most efficiency issues

  • A culture of speaking up is vital

  • Do the right thing… that’s different than doing the wrong thing efficiently - know the difference.


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