What’s Your Standard for “Effective”?

In Under New Management, David Burkus comments that “traditional systems have been around for a long time because they work” and gives an example: the internal combustion engine has been around for over 150 years. He notes that it continues to power the majority of cars driven around the world, as well as other machines. “But engineers and mechanics will tell you that it is only about 25-30% effective.” When gasoline enters the engine and is ignited, some of the energy is used to push the pistons forward; a significant amount is used to overcome inertia and friction. The result: we’re accepting 30% energy-efficient as “effective”.

While there continue to be improvements, and alternative approaches (e.g., the Wankel rotary engine), the fact is that it’s still the mainstay.

The question is: how many other traditional systems do we accept that also “work” but are not as “effective” as we’d like them to be. His book focuses on some changes that organizations are making in the effort to improve matters: flattening organizational structures, putting staff before customers, losing standard vacation policies, dropping annual performance appraisals, etc. Without addressing the merits of the items he selected, we need to focus on whether to use traditional approaches to leadership and management because they work at some level or whether we’re challenging them to find significantly more effective approaches.

In this VUCA world, where yesterday’s assumptions for how to do things are not bringing about the higher Disruptive technologies challenge our assumptions on the effectiveness of technologies. In the office, we need to take the same approach to policies and processes. Burkus focuses on some. Another is offered by Topgrading, which focuses on increasing recruitment success from about 50% to 85%+!

Step outside your office and think about it: what processes really are far less effective than you really want them to be? What’s your standard – is it high enough? Get creative and try new ways which can be more effective. Not all will work, but if we don’t try, we may be stuck with the equivalent of the internal combustion engine for a long time to come.

Share with us the “traditional” processes that should be replaced with superior ones. Maybe other members of our community will share new approaches they’re adopting. They may not be perfect – but they eventually may be more effective!

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