Saturday, April 9, 2016

Efficiency and Effectiveness

Karna had a single goal in life; defeating Arjuna in a final war. His entire life revolved on this one target. All other issues in life paled into insignificance before this one ambition. He even chose to join the camp of Duryodhana with the hope that it will pave the way for the final showdown with Arjuna. He went to Parushurama, satisfied the Guru with his sincerity and learnt all the inner secrets of Archery so that he could match Arjuna arrow for arrow and weapon for weapon. He prepared for years to come out successful on that one day which truly mattered. All other happening and innumerable insults that came his way were brushed aside so that the ultimate goal is not sacrificed. He did not budge from his target even when first Krishna and then his mother Kunti revealed his birth's secret to divert his attention. He readily decided to spare the other four brothers, but not Arjuna.

The day finally arrived in the blood-drenched Kurukshetra. Karna was now standing before his target. Unfortunately, he had amassed a wealth of curses from different sources. They all took effect at the most inappropriate time. His hymns to call the weapons and astras when most wanted faded from his memory. All misfortunes smiled on him together. The curses reduced his efficiency. Inability to recall his war winning skills made him a lame duck. Having lost the cutting edge of efficiency in the war, he lost his effectiveness in pursuing his only goal. Efficiency deserted and effectiveness extinguished, he became the greatest symbol of tragic heroism instead of becoming a great victor.

Internet and Mobile banking have become major tools for a comfortable modren living. We have reached a stage where life can go on without breathing, but not so without net connectivity. We can live without food in the mouth or stomach, but not mobile in the hand. Fish out of water may as well be substituted with "Man or woman without mobile". If the websites of the banks fail when you need the most, it is the final trouble. Karna unwittingly amassed a combination of curses. We have ourselves voluntarily and painstakingly mobilized these gadgets and tools to make us highly efficient and effective. Collective maturing of the curses robbing him of efficiency and rendering him ineffective happened to Karna only once. Of course, there could not have been a second time for him. For the modren man, these happen more often. It is not one final blow, but repeating blows and often with repeating regularity. There could be more pain in future as more and more gadgets are being added with each day.

Decisions are postponed till the last day as they can be implemented whenever one desires. But when it is to be implemented, net connectivity fails. Most have already experienced this trouble and hence have a second arrow in their quiver. But the second source of connectivity also fails when needed most! If connectivity is restored, then the bank website becomes elusive. It is either unavailable or even if available, it is under routine or special updating or upgrading. The website dutifully informs that it is being upgraded only for your convenience! Some websites are considerate and advise the clients beforehand about the dates and time of outage. Some others are not able to advise because they themselves do not know about the date and time of outage. The client is not even in a position to go to the bank personally and get the job done because it is the second or fourth saturday. 

There are banks which send you a new credit card or debit card one month before the previous one expires. There are others who send you one a month after the previous one expires and you make a request followed by reminders. There are organizations that remind a payment due two or three days before the due date for payment, only if the payment is not made till the date of reminder. There are others (Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board is a wonderful example) which remind you even if the payment is made on the date of the bill itself. They are of course very considerate. They give you the option of ignoring the reminder if payment is already made. That payment is already made is known to them does not really matter. They cannot help if their software is unable to make the distinction between those who paid up and those who have not yet paid.

Karna was lucky. Despite all his misfortunes, he indeed knew he was an unfortunate person. He knew the curses and he also knew that they would mature one day. Modren man is not so lucky.

What is Efficiency? It is defined in many ways. It is defined as the ability to accomplish something with least waste of time and effort. It is also defined as competency in performance. It is also said as accomplishing a job with minimum expenditure of money and time. In case of machines or engines, it is the ratio of work done or energy developed by it to the energy supplied to it, usually as a percentage of the output to input. Some twenty years ago, a study in fertilizer industry showed that almost all fertilizer company plants had performed at more than 115 to 120% of their capacity! Everyone appreciated their efforts until someone pointed out that it was not possible at all. The truth was that the rated capacity of the plants were much below their actual capacities!

The best possible definition for "Efficiency and Effectiveness" is perhaps given by Peter F Drucker, the Management Guru. "Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things", he says. Merely being efficient is not enough. One has to be effective as well. Being efficient as well as effective is a true indication of quality in any walk of life.     


  1. Very well related story of Karna to modern technology based on efficiency and effectiveness. Modern technology is ever becoming more cumbersome and it is only good for people who could master the skills to use it effectively and effeciently.

  2. Great article , makes you contemplate !