Within some organisations there seems to be a management mantra of “pursuing ruthless efficiency”. On the face of it, other than sounding like something that ought to appear on a “buzzword bingo” sheet, this seems like a sensible thing to aim for—I mean if we can hit the “sweet spot” of being more efficient (i.e. incurring less costs) whilst also being effective and delivering what our customers want, that has to be a good thing, right?
Well yes, this statement is probably true—to an extent—but there are some important nuances that are easily overlooked. Efficiency is crucial, but like most things in life, it becomes problematic when taken to an extreme. Balanced efficiency can be an excellent thing to aim for—it can actually mean you exceed customers’ expectations (“You can deliver quicker than I expected? Awesome!”). Ruthless efficiency, on the other hand, where an organisation cuts, cuts, cuts without looking and thinking holistically at the impact is far more problematic.
An example of Ruthless Efficiency: A Gym
I was mulling this over recently when working out at my gym. I’ve been a member of this particular gym for over 15 years, and I’ve seen managers and gym staff come and go. The gym itself has changed ownership in that time, and in the past five years it’s pretty obvious that they have been cost cutting presumably with the aim of being “ruthlessly efficient”. In fact, a few years ago they even lowered their monthly subscription charges, to make them more in line with their competitors. Something that is pretty rare! So how has the drive for ruthless efficiency affected them (and their stakeholders)? Read on….