Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

CNN had an interesting article online today, “What’s the quickest way to board a plane?” Given that I fly a lot, I thought I’d give it a read. Turns out an astrophysicist had looked at the problem and found a useless solution. Well, useless because, while it is provably faster (by between 30 seconds and two minutes), it is not useable. Why?

On the assumption that boarding time is the constraint to ground time, (which it is for Southwest, but I am not sure that is true for the other airlines) airlines can save about $30/minute in shorter boarding times, according to the article. The method he found is clever, but ignores the fact that almost all airlines, including Southwest, allow their preferred (a term with different definitions depending on the airline) customers to board first.

Even one of the most non-customer-centric industries like the airlines is not going to stop doing that. While it might be found that Dr. Steffen’s methods can still work with this constraint, it was not tested that way because somebody had confused efficiency with effectiveness when constructing the experiment.

Are you inside-out focused like the airlines or do you remember to first be effective, then work on being efficient.


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