• Keith Wells

Why the "eff" word might need changing

No, not that one. I'm talking about "efficiency". Look at all the announcements around major decisions, changes and plans - in the public and private sectors - and you'll find that word. Often as a rationale, and usually as an objective.

But should it really be either? If, like me, you instantly think "That depends on what you're doing it for", you need to do what I did. Think instead "That depends on who you're doing it for", and that change of perspective changes a lot of other things.

"Efficiency" can be achieved and measured in terms that rarely make it out of Excel. It's the language of process and outcomes, of statistics and calculation. It's been at the heart of all those NHS changes over the past decade and more - and now look where that's got us. It's been both the reason and goal of many M&A deals - the majority of which have failed to deliver the promised value. It doesn't speak to or about the most important groups of people to any strategy: either those who have to perform (often differently from how they have in the past) or those who should be the beneficiaries-purchasers.

But what if we were to focus on "effectiveness"? It's still measurable, and it's still comparable. But it has the idea of "effect" built into it: a demonstrable result, an improvement over what went before. It automatically makes us think of who we're doing it for, of what's important to them, and connects the motivations of internal and external stakeholders.

Of course, this shouldn't be a binary choice, but it's surely time now to shift towards a wider and deeper appreciation of what actually matters. In recognition, and praise, of a proper meal rather than fast food.

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