2023-07-11

🔗 Efficiency trades off against resiliency

I mean a much more general notion of “ability to absorb or respond to change” – change of all sorts, including both bugs or failures, but also change in product needs, change in the market, change in the organization or team composition, whatever.

The true competitive advantage is being able to adapt to changing conditions.

A system with no slack is efficient as long it works, but brittle and will break down quickly in the presence of any changes to its usual operating modes.

When we accuse a system of being wasteful and inefficient, it’s worth pausing to ask what that “waste” may be buying. When we set out to optimize a system, pause to understand where the joints and flexibility in the current system are, and which ones are vital, and to do our best to preserve those. When we set metrics or goals for a system or a team or an organization that ask for efficiency, let us be aware that, absent countervailing pressures, we are probably also asking for the system to become more brittle and fragile, too.

“Become more fragile” is not something I would wish on any team. This is helpful framing.