High-Performance at Half-Effort

Are you or your organization running on “all cylinders” all the time? Do you need to be? Perhaps not, if a conceptual lesson on engine performance can be effectively borrowed from the auto industry and applied to organizations.

The article Firing on Half-Cylinders in the December Scientific American discusses the design of 8-cylinder engines that can switch from

V-8 gas guzzlers into V-4 fuel misers and back again as required. Laying off the accelerator pedal shuts down unneeded engine cylinders, which allows the reamining ones to operate a higher thermal and mechanical efficiencies. The result is 6 to 20 percent better fuel economy, depending on how the vehicles are driven.

[T]he system engages wshen a computer determines that an eight-cylinder engine can satisfy a driver’s torque demands with only four…. It then deactivates every other cylinder in the firing order by disabling their engine valves…(with more of the technical details that are not relevant here).