Level of Effort Is Irrelevant to Pricing

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

One of the most dangerous concepts that we teach small children is that working hard is admirable. The lesson is so ingrained in our social structure that some schools (including those that I attended) delivered separate grades for effort.

Oh, Johnny failed English, but at least he gave it his all!

This toxic idea that effort is somehow related to the value of work produced causes people to waste energy on tasks that do not need to be done. This type of thinking is everywhere - whether seen by folks who pay mechanics by the hour or who receive hourly wages. It creates a perverse incentive, such that folks will be penalized for increasing efficiency.

Sweatshops: Not the greatest creators of value
Image courtesy of Photomatters

I recently had to tally up some figures for a mathematical analysis. I had two methods which could be employed:

Obviously, I chose the latter option. Would my analysis have been any more valuable had I chosen the first alternative? Certainly not! Work (for its own sake) does not add any tangible benefit to the resulting product. It simply increases the cost of production and reduces the profitability of the endeavor.

If anything, we should start penalizing people who work inefficiently. I'd love to see a report card that looked something like this:

Johnny failed biology. All of his work was good, but he didn't work efficiently.

I doubt that such an evaluation will ever be made in my lifetime. The effort-industrial complex has overtaken society and its destruction is far from certain. In the meantime, why not learn more about software engineering pricing? The analysis within my book is fantastic, though I'll steadfastly refuse to discuss how hard I worked to create it.