“Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

We live in a townhouse. If you don’t know what a townhouse is, it’s built high rather than wide, so our kitchen is on the middle floor. It’s my job to deal with the recycling, but rather than bring each can, tin, and paper box downstairs individually, I stick them in a bag and bring them down in one go.

I used to be an Engineer so I’m incredibly lazy, so I want to minimize the number of times I clomp down and up the stairs. However, if I leave it until the recycling bag is full you can imagine what happens. That’s right, I leave a trail of recyclables through the house like an eco-friendly Hansel and Gretel.

It’s more effective if empty my bag before it’s overflowing.

The same thing is true for your teams.

Why aren’t you writing code for eight hours a day?

With the economy the way it is, we’re all being pushed to do more with what we have. The years of being able to hire to take on extra demand are over, so our business partners are looking at how we spend our time more than ever.

You’ll be pushed to explain why your teams aren’t cutting code, testing, or delivering for a full eight hours every day.

You’ll be asked to provide timesheets, cut meetings, and push your teams more to get the work that directly delivers customer-value up to 100%. Ruthless efficiency may look good on paper, but is it effective?

  • What about collaboration? Are your teams working well together?
  • What about experimentation? Are your teams innovating and learning?
  • What about customer feedback? Are your teams building the right things?

Like the recycling, it’s more efficient to only make the trip when I’ve packed the bag full to overflowing, but it’s not effective because I have to tidy up afterwards.

Are your teams more efficient than effective?

Sunday Scaries

When I was a kid, there was a soap on Irish television every Sunday night. Glenroe, was set in the Wicklow mountains and had massive viewership all through the 80s and 90s, but my only real memory was the theme tune.

When the jaunty pipes and slide-show of Irish farmland came on, my body went into shock.

The Sunday Scaries hit!

For you it might have been the theme to Sounds of Praise, or the Simpsons, or even listening to the top 40 on Radio 1, but we’ve all gone through the Sunday Scaries – in fact two-thirds of workers in the UK have some form of Sunday anxiety!

Thirty years later, and I still get the Sunday Scaries. But it’s not that I’ve forgotten an English essay that needs to be handed in on Monday morning, it’s a signal that something is not quite right.

Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, describes this feeling as “Sunday neurosis”:

“…that kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.”

Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
  • Is the work you’re doing meaningful and does it create value?
  • Do the people you work with raise you up and make you a better person?
  • Are you trying to do difficult things that will make the world a better place?

If you’re feeling the Sunday Scaries and the answer to these questions is, “no”, then your body is trying to tell you something – Find meaning in your work life or find a work life that gives you meaning.

There’s a voice that keeps on calling me

I’m Generation X – the lost generation who grew up too late to get the post-War bonus, too early to fully embrace the modern world. Growing up in the 80s, I was obsessed with a Canadian children’s programme called The Littlest Hobo. Every episode basically followed the same plot:

  • The eponymous Hobo, a super-smart German shepherd, travels from town to town across Canada.
  • When they arrive in a new place, inevitably something needs to be fixed to make the townpeople’s lives better.
  • Hobo inspires and helps the townspeople to solve their problems, learn valuable lessons, and then moves along to the next adventure.

Finding myself “unexpectedly available for work”, I’ve recently been thinking a lot about career and looking at my LinkedIn profile, remembered that I’m a Littlest Hobo.

Staying at one place, doing the same role, with the same people is not for me and I suggest shouldn’t be for you either. Without change, without growth, without the ability to learn, we’re stagnant.

We should all be like the Littlest Hobo and move on once our chosen townspeople can solve their own problems.