Sunday, April 13, 2008

Effective vs. Efficient Teams

There's a difference between 'effectiveness' and 'efficiency'

An organization is efficient when each person knows their job, does their job, and there is no slack in the organization. Every person knows exactly what they need to. No less and no more.

This is typically what enterprises drive for: efficient organizations. Typically there will be a communication layer that has minimal understanding of technical details in general and almost no understanding of the technical details in the enterprise. This layer will then communicate to the technical teams, that have almost no knowledge of the business details of the enterprise. The technical teams are actively discouraged from having contact with anyone in the enterprise aside from their designated contacts in the communication layer.

An extreme case is the production team. Every one on that team has a very precise job description and come what may they do not want to deviate from that job description. Each member of the team knows only what is necessary in order to do their job, and quite intentionally does not have any knowledge beyond that.

An efficient team like this is almost completely ineffective at doing anything new. To start with, they have no time. Moreover, no one on an efficient team has the kind of overview necessary to tackle a project that is at all innovative. Depressingly, "something new" can be "getting the data right". If a field may or may not have correct data, then it requires a great deal of research to verify the problem, identify the true problem, and fix the problem. If the data problem does not prevent any of the efficient team's scripts from running, then the efficient team won't care very much one way or another about the data being right or wrong. They can do their job the way they were told, and by the design of the team that is all they care about. More than once and at more than one company I've had a production team simply refuse to fix data problems in their systems.

An effective team should have members that have specialties but each can engage on every other person's areas. The managers and business contacts should be able to effective talk to and in a pinch do the technical aspects; the more technical people should have a good grounding in the overall enterprise and should be able to represent the effective team in meetings.

Effective teams often do not make good efficient teams. People that can be on effective teams are rare and valuable, and the grind of production work can easily grind on them. Enterprises need efficient teams to get the work done, but in budget pressures effective teams can often get pushed aside and that's a mistake.

1 comment:

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