Three Es of
What makes a good process? When a process
operates, how do you determine whether it is successful or not? Processes
seem simple, yet seem to cause so many problems and the very word 'process'
can strike fear into the hearts of many people.
The two standard Es
You can measure inputs and outputs and everything in between in
processes, but most measures boil down to two E’s: Efficiency and
Effectiveness. Ask anyone who has been around processes for a while and
these two words will surely appear.
Efficiency is about saving time, costs and otherwise removing waste. This
is a traditional focus for quality professionals, and its history can be
traced back to the days of Work Study, stopwatches and clipboards.
Effectiveness means delivering what is wanted, effectively meeting stated
and implied needs. In the traditional definition of quality, it is
'conformance to requirements'.
The third E
So what is the third E? This can be discovered by first considering
who the first two Es are for. By taking a stakeholder view of the
organisation (see What is
Quality?) we can find the deeper purpose of what we are aiming to
achieve with our processes.
We aim to be Efficient primarily for our managers and the company, which
really means the shareholders, although time and cost savings can, of
course, always be passed on to customers.
Effectiveness is primarily for customers, meeting their stated and
implied needs such that they are satisfied with our products and services
and consequently remain loyal, become less price-sensitive and so on.
Customers and shareholders are two major stakeholder groups, but who is
missing? Why employees, of course. And what do they want of a process
(that is, their work)? They want work that is interesting, challenging and
fun: in short, Enjoyable (which gives us the third E).
Unfortunately, in our hurry to reengineer for business excellence, we
often forget this third E, creating processes which are Effective and
Efficient, but not very Enjoyable. History fuels this drive in the way that
our sin- and guilt-based religions, our Victorian work ethics and Taylorist
management theories, all say that fun is bad and definitely unprofitable.
The cost of no third E
Consider the impact of processes that are not enjoyable on the business
results. The most obvious negative impact is that if the work is boring or
painful, your people will not be happy, which is the thin end of the wedge
that drives straight into the other result areas. Feelings are highly
infectious, and if your people are unhappy, they will spread their misery to
your customers, which will, shortly afterwards, ripple on to depress your
business results. You will even lose out in social responsibility, as
unhappy people will be less inclined to be good citizens (especially on your
No one E is an island. We can create processes that are Efficient at the
expense of Effectiveness and vice versa. Similarly, we can have fun
processes that are neither very Effective nor Efficient. The challenge,
then, is to find the balance that leads to optimal scores in all of your
Results sections. This will be the point of maximum synergy, where
Efficiency gains remove the boring parts, giving people a more interesting
challenge, where Effectiveness leads to satisfied customers which feeds back
to employee satisfaction, and where Enjoyable processes lead to happy people
who work sincerely towards improving the other two Es.
If your people are really your greatest assets, then design the pleasure
of working for you into your processes. Add challenge, respect, care. And
even fun. And you will be rewarded by results that move upwards in all