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   

Perceived Value

perceived value
Image: from Tim Scullin blog
The other day I was in Disney with my family.  It was great fun, we did almost all of our favorite rides, Haunted Mansion, Thunder Mountain, Pirate's of the Carribean.   Unfortunately we missed out on going on Splash Mountain as it barely got to 60 degrees and we were not brave enough to risk getting wet and being cold.

What I found so interesting as we walked around the park is how quickly some of the lines grew (of course spring break has that effect).  The thing that was so interesting was that they were not the rides that I would have chosen - which was great for us. That got me to asking the question, why do some rides have longer lines faster than other lines.  I believe that one of the reasons is that every person places their own value on each ride.  Some people valued the rides like Winnie the Pooh, while others valued Haunted Mansion, some liked Dumbo while others valued Thunder Mountain.  Each person places their own value on each ride and decides which ones they want to ride first, which rides they are most willing to wait in a long line for, and which rides they just won't ride that day.

This got me to thinking about how employees adopt different technologies, tools and techniques based on the value they perceive they will provide.  For example, I can apply this to the work that I am doing related to driving adoption of activity streams (btw, this is just one example of a large variety of technologies).  As I talk with employees about how they might use an activity stream, some say that it seems just like email and they wonder (aloud sometimes) what value the activity stream provides beyond email.   Some employees never see any value in using an activity stream.  Some know that moving away from email is valuable in some situations, but don't know if the activity stream is the best method.  Some believe a RSS feed aggregator or other technologies are better. Others, thankfully, understand the value right away, but when they start to use the new tool, they find that no one else is using it, which diminishes the value for this individual.

So how do you get people to use the new technology, the new tool, or technique?   There are many ways, and you need to use them all.  Going back to Disney, they use many different methods to entice you to ride their rides (and even to come to Disney World). One of their methods is to nudge people to ride the next ride.  Enterprise can use similar techniques to attract employees to use the new "stuff".

When a nudge is provided, typically the goal is to increase the value that the employees sees in the new tool, or technique or technology.  Or said a different way, the employee's perceived value of the tool needs to increase.  Disney World uses many techniques to nudge people to ride each of their rides.  Most Disney World rides use great visual effects on the outside of the ride.   For example, as you walk into the Haunted Mansion, the people are in character, giving you the "eye" and the line leading into the ride has grave stones with funny things written on them and book shelves that have books that move in and out.   They attract you to the ride using over the top decorations such as the carriage with a ghost horse.

Following the Disney World example, enterprises need to use techniques to get employee to change and use the new "stuff".  To drive this the employee perceived value of that tool, technique or technology must increase. If that does not happen, they won't ever use the new "stuff".  Unfortunately, as you have probably guessed, this is the most difficult part of driving adoption of technology, but it is also the most rewarding.