Efficient or Effective? An E2.0/Socbiz Dilemma

efficiency is not always that great of an idea
All efficiencies are not made equal.
Image: Roadsidepictures

I love going to conferences.  The best part of any conference is when you get to meet, talk and interact with the people at the conference.  These interactions and the conversations are informal and awesome. When I get a chance I love to talk about Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0), Social Business (socbiz) and/or Enterprise Collaboration (EntCollab).  Inevitably, the conversation turns to talking about how to make employees more efficient or productive. 

More often than not, these conversations start with someone asking how I believe employees could be more efficient while using E2.0 or Social business tools.  Unfortunately, for the person I am talking to, I don't think about efficiency as much as I think about effectiveness and I am not shy about sharing my opinion.  Let me explain.  First lets start off with looking at the definitions of each word.  Both word's origin is late Middle English based out of Latin with the base of each word coming from the same root, effect.  The oxford dictionary defines each term as:

Efficient : achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense
Effective : successful in producing a desired or intended result

While using E2.0 or Socbiz tools could provide efficiences by reducing wasted effort by employees, it is not always guaranteed, especially not during an initial rollout or implementation.  But employees will become more effective by engaging in SocBiz or E2.0.  While some companies that implement E2.0 or Socbiz tools do so without a goal or without knowing what they expect to happen, the most effective companies do have goals and do know the desired effect that these tools will have on their employees. What those intended results and desired effects are will vary greatly from company to company. 

Each company must determine these goals on their own. Based on my experiences, I have seen companies define their goals as simply as ensuring that employees share information more openly and that a change in culture is enabled by the use of these tools.  Other companies define the goals for E2.0 or Social Business as a way to enable the employees to find information quicker and faster than they did before. Others have defined success by having employees use these tools as part of their business process, improving the success of the business unit.  And lastly, others have defined them as a way to gain efficiencies.  Yes improving effectiveness can be defined by improving efficiencies.

Efficiency indicates that people are able to trim the fat out of the processes they do today, making their business units more productive.  Effectiveness is obtaining the result you set out to do. While every company that implements E2.0, or Socbiz tools is trying to gain business value. I am not actually saying that companies that implement these tools  won't be able to minimize the wasted effort.  That is probably going to happen, but if companies take the time to look deeper at how they are becoming more effective by using these tools, they will much more successful with their E2.0 and Soc Business implementations