Why Productivity ≠ Alignment or Efficiency

Hey readers! Welcome to EH weekly, where you can look forward to insightful lessons and practical takeaways delivered to your inbox every Monday.

In this week’s edition, we’re talking productivity;

  • Why productivity doesn’t increase when your teams are aligned

  • Why productivity and efficiency don’t go hand in hand

Productivity versus Alignment

Does increased alignment between disparate teams increase productive innovation?

Nir Zicherman (Former VP of Audiobooks at Spotify; Co-Founder of Anchor) believes it has the opposite effect.

The more your team members or sub-organizations need to be in sync, the less quickly they will execute their goals (because of the overhead of communicating). Conversely, the more you want to focus on productivity, efficiency, new feature creation, etc., the less your teams will be able to keep up with each other.

Productivity versus alignment in action — take a mid-sized tech company introducing a new feature. Product managers need buy in from all the other product managers who own their own respective surfaces. These each need to talk to the designers. The engineers weigh in on what’s feasible. The inability to do certain things causes a new flood of re-definition by the product managers and the designers and the engineers once more. Throw into the mix the lawyers, the accountants, the quality assurance testers, the finance team, and so on. Is it surprising things take so long to get done?

What can you do about it? — Choose your place.

As with all trade-offs, the only thing worse than either option (or anything in between) is not being active in choosing which you want. Being passive allows the winds of randomness or fate to govern where you land, and nobody wins.

👉️ Head here for a deeper dive into the Productivity Versus Alignment debate.

Productivity versus Efficiency

Many brilliant business minds often conflate the concepts of productivity and efficiency into one glorified metric that proves (even calculates) whether employees are doing “enough” work. The problem is that efficiency is applied to processes, while productivity is applied to people.

Avi Seigel thinks we should be separating the two:

  • High efficiency does not mean high productivity. You can make the most efficient processes in the world, but if your people aren’t doing the work or following procedures, they won’t produce results quickly.

  • High productivity does not mean high efficiency. You can hire the smartest and brightest employees, but if they are drowning in operational processes and red tape, they won’t produce results quickly.

Once you move them apart, you can start to focus on improving each one in isolation. Determine if efficiency could be higher. Separately determine if productivity could be higher. That’s looks a little bit like this:

  • When dealing with processes, you need to focus on how and why they’re either weighing you down, not helpful enough, or simply broken (i.e., inefficient).

  • When dealing with human beings, you need to focus on what can make real people with real emotions better at performing their jobs (i.e., more productive)

👉️ Head here for a deeper dive into this subject: Productivity != Efficiency

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