Balancing Efficiency and Effectiveness in Project Management: Insights from Real-World Experience

Efficient and effective. These are the twin pillars that organizations strive for in their projects. Many project managers excel at achieving efficiency: they develop detailed plans, maintain schedules, optimize resources, and report progress meticulously. Their focus on minimizing waste and maximizing value is both commendable and essential. However, efficiency alone does not guarantee effectiveness. A project can be completed on time and within budget, yet still fail to deliver the desired value.

The Challenge of Uncertainty

Projects are inherently unpredictable. How teams navigate this uncertainty largely determines their effectiveness. This is where the concept of “slicing work” becomes invaluable. Anton Skornyakov, managing director of Agile Coach and author of “The Art of Slicing Work,” emphasizes that slicing work is not about adhering to a specific methodology but about enabling steady and controllable progress. It creates a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, maximizing the value of the work produced.

Understanding Slicing Work

Slicing work involves structuring projects into manageable, deliverable segments. This can be done either horizontally (by activities) or vertically (by deliverables or “slices”). Vertical slicing, in particular, focuses on achieving tangible results quickly and allows for fast, frequent feedback. This approach helps teams identify issues early, learn, adjust, and navigate unpredictability effectively.

Real-World Application: Healthcare IT Project Recovery

At AxysPoint Consulting Group, we recently had the privilege of working on high-priority, high-risk, and high-impact project recovery initiatives with large healthcare systems. These projects involved managing critical cybersecurity challenges that arose unexpectedly. By employing the slicing work approach, we were able to break down the projects into small, checkable deliverables.

For instance, during a cybersecurity enhancement project, we identified a major vulnerability in the healthcare system’s patient data management software. We could implement security patches and monitor their effectiveness in real-time by addressing this issue in small, iterative steps. This approach ensured quick mitigation of the threat and provided continuous feedback, enabling us to make necessary adjustments promptly. The result was a more secure and resilient IT infrastructure that significantly reduced the risk of data breaches.

The ROI of Effective Project Management

The return on investment (ROI) from effective project management can be substantial. According to a PMI report, organizations that invest in proven project management practices waste 28 times less money because more of their strategic initiatives are completed successfully. In our experience, adopting the slicing work approach has led to improved project outcomes and higher client satisfaction. One healthcare client reported a 40% reduction in project completion time and a 30% increase in overall system security after implementing our recommended strategies.

Balancing Efficiency and Effectiveness

Achieving both efficiency and effectiveness requires a balanced approach. Initially, focusing on vertical slices allows for cross-functional collaboration and fast customer feedback. This involves trying the riskiest aspects first, measuring progress, and adjusting quickly. Once familiar with a vertical slice, teams can switch to more rigorous planning, optimizing for efficiency with detailed analysis, design, and risk mitigation strategies.

A Hybrid Approach to Project Management

In many cases, a hybrid approach to project management is most effective. For example, in construction projects like building a new house, the initial stages involve iterative design and feedback from the architect. Once the design is finalized, the manual construction work follows a more traditional project management approach. Similarly, in IT projects, especially those with high uncertainty, slicing work helps separate different parts of the project, allowing for appropriate management of each segment. This reduces waste, speeds up learning, and improves stakeholder satisfaction by providing clear, measurable progress.

Cultural Impact and Leadership

An organization’s culture plays a crucial role in the success of slicing work. Resistance to change is natural, but slicing work offers immediate feedback and pragmatic discussions, fostering a goal-oriented and impact-focused culture. Effective communication skills are essential for inviting and giving critical feedback, creating safe environments for honest discussions, and ensuring that teams feel supported in navigating unpredictability.

At AxysPoint Consulting Group, we believe in the power of balancing efficiency with effectiveness to achieve project success. By focusing on the results that matter, adopting the slicing work approach, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, organizations can navigate the complexities of modern projects and deliver exceptional value. To learn more about how we can assist your organization in strengthening its project management practices, visit us at

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