When efficiency hurts the bottom line

You need to learn when to sacrifice efficiency for effectiveness.

The other day, I took my team to a major fast food restaurant. (Trust me, I don’t make a habit of this, but it was necessary due to a time crunch).

Each of the eight people ordered individually and I dutifully paid for the team. Without missing a beat the employees monitored their screens and assembled the components, pumping out the smattering of burgers, fries, salads and sodas we had purchased. They were very quick and clearly knew how to get us our food in a timely manner. As I observed the process it became evident that the end product was to be four trays full of an assortment of grub.

As this process rapidly unfolded, I asked the young man working the cash, “Could you make sure the food is separated by each person who ordered individually?”. (I could see that it would be an inconvenience for my team to have to sort out what each of the eight unique orders were). He looked at me as if I was trying to send a rocket to the moon. I tried once more, but none-the-less apparently my scenario hadn’t been part of the training manual. He didn’t even seem to be able to comprehend my request or why I would make it.

It was ironic, because just a day earlier my team discussed the balance between effectiveness and efficiency. We decided that effectiveness in accomplishing the mission should always trump efficiency.

The restaurant was very efficient, but made a withdrawal from my emotional bank account as they caused me the frustration (and time-loss) of re-sorting out all the orders again. They were not very effective at getting me to want to bring back my business again.


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