Seth Godin, Andy Stanley, and the Tension Between Joy and Efficiency

joy and efficiencySeth Godin blogged earlier this week that traditional corporations, particularly large-scale service and manufacturing businesses, are organized for efficiency.

“McDonalds, Hertz, Dell and others crank it out. They show up. They lower costs. They use a stopwatch to measure output.”

But replicating a product or service incrementally faster and cheaper is inherently unremarkable.

“The alternative, it seems, is to organize for joy.”

Organizing for joy means honoring the special request, going the extra mile, doing what it takes to be remarkable.

Now, which sounds more appealing to you?  Which would you rather be?  Organized for efficiency or organized for joy?

Joy, right?

But there’s a problem.

If you throw efficiency out the window and focus solely on joy, you will lose money and go out of business (unless your product or service is truly unique and you have no competitors.)  If you eliminate joy and focus exclusively on efficiency you will fail.  If you eliminate efficiency and focus exclusively and joy you will fail.

To borrow from Andy Stanley, this is a problem that shouldn’t be solved.  The pull between efficiency and joy is a tension that must be acknowledged and lived with.

How do you live with the joy/efficiency tension?

Make sure that you have goals and metrics for both joy and efficiency.  Celebrate wins in both areas.

For example, our support team at OurChurch.Com measures support opportunities addressed per hour (efficiency).  They also survey the people who are helped and measure those ratings (joy).  They document situations where remarkable support was provided (joy), and we celebrate those in our monthly meeting.

Do you and your organization recognize joy and efficiency as a tension to live with?  How do you manage that tension?

9 Responses to “Seth Godin, Andy Stanley, and the Tension Between Joy and Efficiency”

  1. This is very wise. It reminds me of Wally Bock’s thoughts on the 100% Productivity Myth. He said, “We don’t work well when we work all the time. That “wasted” time is the time when creativity happens. It’s the time when relationships are developed.”

    The job has to get done, but life also has to be more than the numbers on the spreadsheet. Kind of like raising children…the chores have to be done, but sometimes the conversation takes first place. Lose sight of the chores and you’ve raised a bunch of self-centered slobs. Lose sight of the conversation and you have no relationship to carry into adulthood.

    A good reminder at a very productivity-focused point in my life! Thanks, Paul!

  2. Here we go again, its all about tension, how do we live in it, thrive in it? I read Seth’s post last week and though the same thing. It only works in very special environments. We can’t live in a complete, “don’t worry, be happy” place. We have to have some kind of structure with values, mission, and goals. If not we don’t get to where we want to go. To me the life of Jesus is all about finding that tension between, don’t worry, the birds don’t worry, and follow me, I am on a mission and its huge. Tension? absolutely. Great take.

    • Thanks Rusty. I love the way earlier Sabrina applied the principle to family life and now you’ve shown how it applies to spiritual life.

      Tensions – they’re everywhere! 🙂

  3. we need both. and the tension that ensues. there will always be a tension, but we need to let joy out as much as possible, not forgetting the productivity that will follow.

    “McDonalds, Hertz, Dell and others crank it out. They show up. They lower costs. They use a stopwatch to measure output.” Remember that each started as a creative idea that had to be nurtured to the productive behemoths they are today. and sometimes an individual McDonalds will run out of special sauce, God forbid, but even in great efficiency, joy is dispensed until there is a breakdown.

    It’s how we deal with our breakdowns in efficiency that defines us as people. Are we full of joy?

    I hope and pray I can live in the tension, letting God worry about the breakdowns in productivity.

  4. I’ve not thought about efficiency vs. joy. I do think about efficiency vs. effectiveness all the time. I contend when you are effective with people you’ll be efficient. Maybe the same hold true with joy. Increase joy and you’ll increase your efficiency.


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