hero:Mgmt: Is efficient ever optimal?
– 3 min read

Mgmt: Is efficient ever optimal?

I love the English concept of “pet peeve.1” It perfectly captures my feelings about the Finnish tendency to sub-optimize every process, organization, and company in the name of mythical efficiency.

A prime example is how many clinical services have been outsourcing the cleaning of the faculties2. Managing the faculty cleaners takes a lot of work, and faculties are just a cost element - right? At first, it can seem easy to agree. After all, this holds for most organizations, where it is easy to argue that faculties or their cleanliness are not part of the “core business” of the org.

However, it only takes a couple of shifts with outsourced cleaning for anyone involved in the daily work of a healthcare unit to realize that faculty cleaning is not only part of the core business. It’s a critical business enabler.

Unsurprisingly, the phenomenon is a constant discussion topic, as it repeats repeatedly across most Finnish companies and organizations. We may have developed a national drive to create efficiency without impact or value.

Instead of bickering about the topic, I’ve been trying to understand how to get to the root of it: how to reduce the tendency to forget the big picture.

While I do not have an answer yet - I’ve started to draft a test pattern to detect when we are optimizing the wrong thing, whether the reason is optimizing for a too-short period or a too-small function.

There are some obvious questions, like

  1. Are we optimizing for the lifecycle instead of this year or this quarter? (or this election cycle, in public services, etc.)
  2. Have we spoken with the people who do the work, e.g., subject matter specialists - or are we just implementing a theoretical model?
  3. Do we understand why we are optimizing? Can the need for efficiency be mapped to the entity’s larger strategy or vision?

But that’s just the obvious ones. And they need to be narrower to be effective.

It’s time to read a book or two on the topic and stop pondering these in my head.


  1. Oxford languages: noun INFORMAL something that a particular person finds especially annoying.

  2. The same happens in housing companies. Back in the day, the larger housing companies had their maintenance staff. Most companies have moved to use maintenance companies, which has let the housing company sell the maintenance persons’ apartments and move some numbers to another column in the books. Again, this seems like a good move fiscally and service-wise, but it does not take a lot of Excel skills to show that the return on investment is often negative over time. The service level often drops fast after the contract with the maintenance company.