By louis
Published: June 10, 2007

The word efficiency brings about different reactions from different people. Most managers embrace the concept wholeheartedly, at least as it applies to those that work for them. Many times workers are less enthusiastic about the concept.

Theoretically, efficiency might be defined as the ratio of input to output. Again, theoretically this is better for everyone and ideally it could be. Problem is the actual workplace is often far from ideal. Because of a multitude of unconsidered factors, often the best theories do not show results in practice.

All too often attempts at efficiency improvement are little more than an endeavor to simply coerce more work out of employees. Without other changes the probability of results is low. For example a department head may reduce staff and still expect the same, if not more work from those that remain. Nothing has changed except the [I] goal [/] of those in charge.

This approach seems to imply that people are inherently lazy and will "sand bag" unless pressure is applied. I do not believe this to be true. In my experience, the result is a often a work force that is quite resentful and sometimes even covertly live up to the image that is supplied for them.

Workers repeatedly exposed to such conditions may be unlikely to ever embrace efforts at efficiency improvement. This almost guarantees future failure. The simplistic view may be "people just don’t want to work," rather than considering their behavior is a symptom of their treatment. This may also lead [I] management [/I] to increase pressure through manipulative pay schemes, threats of punitive action or dismissal.

Dr. Deming taught, more might be gained by eliminating obstacles that keep employees from being efficient. His approach entailed, supplying efficient equipment, providing adequate training, a more comfortable environment and particularly better management support. The thought was removing obstacles to efficiency. This approach can increase output, while maintaining or even lowering input effort.

A manager would not consider these methods because he is a nice guy or is trying to be liked. Rather it should be that he understands increased efficiency is in everyone’s best interest and this is an effective means to that end. Humane methods appeal to him because he would consider no other way. The effect may be that he is respected for his effort, though that is not his motivation.

The manager who believes people lazy, likely does not use his methods to intentionally debase and de-motivate his employees. In fact, their feeling may be of little concern. He may simply be acting in a manner consistent with his beliefs and experiences. His methods may produce activity, the methods of the true manager are far more likely to produce efficiency.

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