Emphasize Efficiency, not Effort
At the beginning of 2015, I realized that most of my work had become tragically inefficient. Ironically, I had gotten myself into this situation as a result of trying to eliminate inefficiencies. In retrospect, the trap seems very obvious: my team and I were attempting to “get ahead of the curve” by increasing our efforts and working long hours each day. Once we were far enough ahead, we would finally have time to implement the technologies that would allow us to operate more efficiently. Then, we would be able to get the same job done in 5 minutes instead of 5 days. Everyone would be super happy, and we’d all get big raises. Yippie!
Except, that’s not what actually happened.
What actually happened was that our hard work dramatically reduced the number of complaints that we received from our customers. The executives noticed this and concluded that the products had finally stabilized. So, they expanded the sales team, and the products started selling like hotcakes. Unfortunately, these were still highly unstable hotcakes that took 5 days to cook. Now that the demand had increased, my team and I had to do even more work just to catch up. The more we worked to get ahead, the more we fell behind. Before we realized what had happened, our plans to improve the operational efficiency had disappeared from the product roadmap entirely. There simply wasn’t time for them anymore!
In short, we had adopted a pretty dumb strategy.
In the world of technology, you should always emphasize efficiency rather than effort. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can invest in operational efficiency after you “get ahead of the curve”. There is always more work to do, and hence you are always “behind the curve”. If you want your workload to be manageable, then you must continually invest in your operational efficiency.
So, the next time your company has a pep rally about increasing efforts and working harder, stand up and shout: “No, because that is dumb! We should invest in operational efficiency today!”. Unless, of course, they agree to pay you overtime. Then, just shut up and pocket that extra cash 😉