Ergonomics done right.®
May 31st, 2008


Efficient_bagage_2  A post at Slow Leadership caught my attention the other day:

“Why you should think seriously about being less efficient.”  Hmmm.

Though it may seem contradictory to what we know and understand in the world of lean and ergonomics, it makes total sense.  Being efficient is all about minimizing waste, increasing productivity, and decreasing costs (think: “How can I do this with less?”).  Being effective, however, is about finding the right solution and thinking outside of the box (think: “How can we do this better?”)  Now it should go without saying that you need both to be successful; but it’s about how you utilize your resources that counts.

As usual,the 80/20 rule can be applied to various functions within a company:

  • Hourly employees, line managers/supervisors, line engineers, etc.:
    • 80% of the time this group should be encouraged to look for continuous improvement and efficiency gains; this can be done through team-based kaizen events.
    • 20% of the time this group should be encouraged to seek out new methods, tools, and processes; this can be done through involving them in clean-sheet design reviews.
  • Plant management, leadership team, company executives, etc.:
    • 80% of the time this group should be looking for ways to innovate and to be more effective at what they do; this can be done through benchmarking with similar/different industries, market research, etc.
    • 20% of the time this group should be involved in continuous improvement initiatives; this is to ensure there remains a connection to what is currently being done.

Slow Leadership included a statement made by Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of, on his thoughts about customer needs.  I thought I’d include a couple of other examples of Bezos’ colleagues (who, by the way, also made it onto this year’s Time 100 list who are models of how to be more effective, not just efficient:

  • Indra Nooyi, Chariman and CEO of PepsiCo
    • Rather than just focus on how to be more effective in their traditional market (soft drinks and snack chips), Nooyi pushed for PepsiCo to become a “healthier brand”; purchase Quaker Oats and Tropicana in recent years and removing trans fat from its products well before other competitors.
    • PepsiCo’s international business grew 22% last year
  • Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple
    • Rather than spending time, money, and resources making products people don’t want (think back to the days of the good ol’ walkman and discman), Jobs is king of marketability.  Knowing your customers’ wants and needs are far more important than building it fast or cheap.
    • Apple’s stock has increased over 70% of the past year.

If you’re still not convinced, let’s close with a quote from Thomas Leonard, founder of CoachVille: “When you’re effective, you are able to accomplish the worthwhile goal you’ve chosen. When you’re efficient, you quickly carry out actions. You won’t be effective, however, unless those actions result in your achieving a meaningful goal.”

Are you efficient, effective or efficiently effective? It makes a difference.