During my second year in business school, I co-produced the annual student variety show. My co-producer and I ended up dipping into our own shallow wallets to cover budget overruns.
To the best of my knowledge, it was the first time the show produced an artistic success and a financial failure. That was a decidedly un-business school result. Although we named the show “A Bottom Line” in homage to “A Chorus Line,” we lost sight of our bottom line in pursuit of our vision.
It’s taken me years to sort out the lessons contained in this experience. At a systemic level, it’s impossible to cleanly separate efficiency and effectiveness. It might have its merits as a rhetorical strategy but real world situations demand that you attend to the balance between them.
Efficiency concerns dominate because we’ve worked out most of those details. Effectiveness was the purview of a handful of decision makers near the top. Now, effectiveness matters to a wider swath of the organization. I believe this is true but, ironically, I don’t know how to make that argument effectively.