I’ve been stuck in airports all day today between Denver and Charlotte but all has not been lost. While waiting around for my flights, I’ve been reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Although most of the book is dedicated to illustrating ways you can improve your work life and your personal life, one section of the book is focused on the difference between being effective and being efficient. According to Ferriss, effectiveness is “doing the things that get you closer to your goals.” Efficiency is “performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible.” He asserts that “being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe.”
We can learn a great deal from these brief statements, especially as it relates to implementing agile practices. Although agile practices allow us to become very efficient, we must be sure to reap the true benefit of these practices by becoming extremely effective. Scrum, by its very nature promotes effectiveness. When we continually prioritize backlog items at the start of each iteration, we are increasing our effectiveness. We are continually working on the most important items that get us closer to reaching our goal. Backlog items that are unimportant or no longer relevant are eliminated, further increasing our effectiveness. In addition, the inspect and adapt mantra of Scrum helps us become more effective (and efficient) as well. By constantly reflecting on our practices and adapting them as necessary, we identify our inefficiencies and eliminate them. By the same means we discover our strengths and exploit them to become even more efficient and effective. Ferriss sums it up best by writing “What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless it is applied to the right things.”
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