Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April 16, 2007


Okay, you believe you had a great day at work today; that you accomplished a lot. And maybe you did. Then again, maybe you didn't do as much as you might think. A lot of people believe just because they are a model of efficiency, they are being highly productive. This is simply not true. We have discussed the concept of productivity on more than one occasion in this column, but some trends in the I.T. industry have spurred me to revisit it again.

Perhaps the biggest problem here is that people fallaciously equate efficiency with productivity. They are most definitely not synonymous. Efficiency is concerned with speed of delivery, reduced errors, and minimal costs or effort. In other words, how fast we can perform a given task, at reduced costs, without committing any substantial errors in the process. But what if we are performing the wrong task at the wrong time? Obviously this would be counterproductive regardless how efficiently we performed the task. I always use the example of industrial robots on an assembly line, whereby they can perform tasks such as welding very efficiently. But if they are welding the wrong thing at the wrong time, they are counterproductive.

This means there are two variables involved with productivity: efficiency and effectiveness. Whereas efficiency primarily deals with speed and "doing things right," effectiveness is concerned with "doing the right things." In other words, working on assignments in the right sequence. Sequence can be defined for a single project by its work breakdown structure (WBS) and precedent relationships, or for working on multiple projects based on priority.


To illustrate this point, let's consider your work activity today (either perform this analysis at the end of the day, or for your last business day). Write this down on a piece of paper:

1. First, let's define your EFFICIENCY rating for the day; as guidelines, use the following:

1.00 - I was a dynamo today; worked fast, no errors.
.75 - I did more than my share, not too many mistakes.
.50 - I did my fair share, average number of mistakes.
.25 - I was below average, some mistakes.
.00 - Had a bad day; too many mistakes, a lot of time lost.

Enter your EFFICIENCY rating here: __________
(enter any number from 1:00 High to .00 Low)

2. Make a list of your work assignments IN PRIORITY SEQUENCE; (list at least your top five assignments, regardless if it is within a single project or involving multiple projects; obviously you may have more assignments, but let's limit it to five for the purpose of this exercise):

1. __________________________________
2. __________________________________
3. __________________________________
4. __________________________________
5. __________________________________

3. Account for your time during the day using the following variables. Be honest.

(The total number of hours spent at work)

___________ hours

B. Of the THD, how much time was spent on interferences or activities not directly related to your work assignments (e.g., breaks, lunch, meetings, reading, surfing the web, e-mail, correspondence, telephone, travel between appointments, etc.)?

___________ hours

C. Enter the number of hours spent during the day on your top five priorities (enter "0" if you didn't work on something); then compute the extended number according to the equation shown:

HOURS EXTENDED #1 Priority (___________ / THD) X 1.00 = ___________ #2 Priority (___________ / THD) X .90 = ___________ #3 Priority (___________ / THD) X .80 = ___________ #4 Priority (___________ / THD) X .70 = ___________ #5 Priority (___________ / THD) X .60 = ___________

Note: The hours reported here, coupled with the time recorded for interferences ("B"), must equal the Total Hours in Day (THD). Also, the rates used in the computation are based on priority (highest to lowest).

4. Add the EXTENDED numbers of all five priorities: ___________
(This is your "Effectiveness" rating)




B. Of the THD, how much time was spent on interferences or activities not directly related to your work assignments (e.g., breaks, lunch, meetings, reading, surfing the web, e-mail, correspondence, telephone, travel between appointments, etc.)?


C. Enter the number of hours spent during the day on your top five priorities (enter "0" if you didn't work on something); then compute the extended number according to the equation shown:

HOURS EXTENDED #1 Priority (1 / THD) X 1.00 = .125 #2 Priority (1 / THD) X .90 = .1125 #3 Priority (0 / THD) X .80 = 0 #4 Priority (0 / THD) X .70 = 0 #5 Priority (4 / THD) X .60 = .3

4. Add the EXTENDED numbers of all five priorities: .5375
(This is your "Effectiveness" rating)


Let's put it all together now and compute our Productivity. Let's first start with our example; let's assume we had a pretty good work day and our Efficiency rating (as defined in step #1) was .75. When we multiply it against our Effectiveness rate, we get .403125 .

Next, let's compute YOUR numbers:

__________ EFFICIENCY (from #1) X __________ EFFECTIVENESS (from #4) __________ PRODUCTIVITY

To calculate your own productivity rating, see our "MBA Daily Productivity Analyzer" on our web page:


This is but a simple example. It is far from scientific (for example, the efficiency rating is crudely estimated without any level of precision). Nonetheless, the Productivity number highlights the differences between Efficiency and Effectiveness. Using the numbers in our example, if we were to use a perfect 1.00 Efficiency rating (as opposed to .75), the worker's Productivity rating would not be any higher than .5375. This is because the worker spent time on interferences/distractions and worked on other priorities that perhaps he should not have.

I have seen companies who like to plot efficiency ratings on a graph, but as far as I am concerned the data is misleading as they only portray a glimpse of a much larger picture. Plotting the effectiveness rating is just as important as the efficiency rating and helps produce a realistic productivity rating.


Some workers, particularly craftsmen, understand the differences between efficiency and effectiveness. They appreciate the total process for building something and are acutely aware of the potential risk for cutting corners. Some simply don't get it (and probably never will). For example, the I.T. industry commonly misunderstands this concept and is obsessed with efficiency. As evidence, consider the use of "Agile Methodologies" today which are quick and dirty approaches for writing a program. Here, a rudimentary program is developed, then radically refined over time until the client signs-off on it. Proponents consider Agile Methodologies to be a quantum leap forward in terms of productivity. I don't. True, they can write code fast, but because they are not well structured, a lot of time is spent revising designs and rewriting code, not just once but several times. Instead of getting it right the first time, Agile Methodologies rely on the efficiency of their power programming tools to make them look good.

So what is a good productivity rating? First, let's dispense with the notion of 100% productivity. This is purely a myth. This would mean that everyone in a company is being both highly effective and efficient around the clock. This is simply not possible. Our example herein shows a productivity rating of 40% which is probably closer to reality. In fact, 25% is considered a good rating and is typical for a lot of companies.

If this paper has done nothing more than raise your consciousness about the differences between effectiveness and efficiency, then it has served its purpose. Hopefully, it will cause you to refocus your efforts on "doing the right things" as opposed to just "doing things right."

So, how "effective" were you today? Your answer will say a lot.

As a footnote; If you are familiar with my writings on "PRIDE" Project Management, you have heard me talk about "Effectiveness Rate" in differentiating the use of time. What I am describing herein is not the same thing; similar, but not quite. Under the Project Management scenario "effectiveness rate" is an availability rating which is used for estimating and scheduling, but not for calculating productivity.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency"


Last week I suffered a major crash of Windows XP. This caused me to reinstall the operating system as well as the many programs I work with. Fortunately, I was well backed-up and didn't lose anything of substance; nonetheless, I lost a day and a half recovering from it. The week before that, a good friend of mine suffered a similar crash on his laptop which took him days to recover.

Not long ago you heard me complain how Microsoft products are actually counterproductive. Well, here are two fine examples of it. Instead of doing what we're paid to, both my friend and I lost considerable time fixing the operating system.

While I was reinstalling the operating system I was, of course, encouraged by Microsoft to upgrade to Windows Vista (like that would be better). Frankly, I've lost all confidence in Microsoft products and understand why so many of my friends and business associates are switching over to the Mac. We want confidence that our computers are industrial strength and aren't going to hiccup at the worst possible time for us.

I'm just amazed how blindly people follow Microsoft, be it at home or in the corporate world. I always chuckle when I hear Bill Gates described as a technical genius. A marketing genius, yes, but a technical genius? Hardly. To me, Gates is living proof that you can indeed turn crap into gold.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


Friends, the "PRIDE" Methodologies for Information Resource Management (IRM) is a common sense solution for Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, and Project Management. The methodologies include defined work breakdown structures, deliverables, and review points that promote quality and the production of industrial-strength information systems. Building information resources is a science, not an art form. Our methodologies clearly explain the concepts that govern them, which remarkably, is derived from engineering/manufacturing practices. Now you can get these acclaimed methodologies for free at our corporate web site at:


I received a lot of e-mails this past week from our listeners; first, I heard from "The Great One" in Sarasota, Florida regarding last week's essay on "Virtual Project Teams"; he writes:

"Your essay on virtual teams was on the mark. Having extensive experience on working and managing virtual teams I would like to stress the most critical factors to success:

1. Holding weekly meetings with all team members following a structured agenda and meeting etiquette.

2. Prior to meetings, team members forward their status reports to the project manager and report any critical issues PRIOR to meetings such that the project manager has a chance to digest, analyze, and action resolutions...bringing large issues to the meeting is inefficient and counterproductive to the rest of the team.

3. Team members report on their progress at each meeting giving the entire team a view to the overall project picture.

4. The Project Manager should conclude the meeting with general announcements, perhaps praise noteworthy events, and point out any important procedural requirements.

I agree that working in a virtual mode brings the need for carefully planned projects following some form of methodology to the forefront.

My pet peeve is that when an individual who is an in-house type of person working from home consistently shows up late to virtual meetings and falls behind in their work, they should be brought back in house for a time until their work habits are brought back in compliance. Working from home is a privilege, not a right..."

Next, I heard from some listeners pertaining to some of my recent "Pet Peeves of the Week."

First, I received a note from a DW in Toronto regarding my "Fascination with Celebrities" column. DW writes:

"I think its the 24 hour news channels, Larry King, and all the Entertainment TV shows that keep all of this in our face more than it used to. More bandwidth needs stuff to fill it and still make money, so easy stories get airplay

It is the "tabloidization" of the media. Paper tabloids have been with us much longer, like in the movie "LA Confidential" (was that art? dunno...). I swear I would do all my grocery shopping at a store that banned tabloids at the check-out counter.... but that's about as likely as getting my spouse to stop watching Entertainment Tonight.

So, is our interest in celebrities/entertainers new? No, it can start with Mozart and Liszt, on to Dickens and Twain, then to non-entertainers like Lindburgh. Again, its the "fill the bandwidth" issue."

I also received an e-mail from a FD in Edmonton regarding my "Birthdays" Pet-Peeve where I complained how we tend to celebrate the wrong things. FD writes simply:

"The alternative to another birthday is certainly not a pleasant thought!"

Again, thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

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  • I like your calculation of effectiveness and talk about something similar in my post "the efficiency myth", although I think that something can't be effective if it creates a mistake therefore I would already factor in your efficiency (or mistake metric) into my effectiveness measure. The only difference is what you call productivity I call efficiency because the mistake measure is already included.

    I don't however agree with your comments on Agile Methodologies. Agile came out of the Lean Thinking world of Toyota, which has just passed GM as number 1 car manufacture. I am reading the latest book from the Lean Enterprise Institute "Lean Product and Process Development" and it talks about the advantages of doing multiple prototypes, especially for sub-components, before selecting the final one for production. The author provides the rationale over why this is a much better approach to attempting to get it right the first time as per your comment. He uses the Space Shuttle design as an example.

    By Blogger Robinson Roe, At 8:02 AM  

  • First, please understand that in my formula for Productivity, errors are addressed in the Efficiency side of the equation, not the Effectiveness side.

    Second, I am also a proponent of prototyping, a concept that has been around for a number of years, particularly in manufacturing. This transcends Agile Methodologies by many years. I guess the reason I am not a proponent of Agile Methodologies is simply because their scope is very limited. Instead of thinking of systems in their entirety, they are only concerned with a single program. This is like focusing on a single element of an object, such as a bridge, as opposed to the overall architecture of the object. It is my belief that there are far too few systems engineers in the world these days. As I like to say, "If we built bridges the same way as we built systems in this country, this would be a nation run by ferryboats."

    Nor do I believe Agile Methodologies to be a new concept. In fact, it is very old as programmers have been trying to do this since the 1960's. The only difference is the number of power programming tools now available to them.

    By Blogger Tim Bryce, At 10:46 AM  

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