The Effort – Art – Science Scale: A Progression Model for How Work is Worked


The evolution of how work is worked can be visualized in three phases: effort, art, and science. Each of them has its own purpose. Saying one is better than another is not effective; it’s about understanding readiness and what is needed now versus what is needed next.

The Effort – Art – Science Scale is an easy and valuable way to visualize the work. This model is intended to celebrate that how we work can evolve even if the direction doesn’t. Using this model well takes intentional focus to rally the team in a common direction and assess the right timing to shift gears up.

1. Effort is about out-muscling things. You drive success with pure energy, and you do whatever you need to make it work. Some call this whack-a-mole and others call it swarming. It’s very effective and yet over time, it can be exhausting and even polluted by some wasted effort when work is over-resourced. In start-up mode, effort can be a source of momentum and yet as work progresses, teams can view an effort-only strategy as sloppy which will reflect poorly not on the teammates exerting the effort, but rather the leader organizing the effort.

2. Art is intentionally organizing the patterns of effort.

We’ve all heard the term “getting in a groove” or “in the zone”. This is where pure effort becomes art. Runners know the first mile is more difficult than the second. Bakers know the second sheet of cookies comes out of the oven better than the first. Muscle memory is a pattern, and one’s experience and the rhythm of doing the work make these patterns meaningful to the performer. They know what to do and they do the work with greater ease and so the pattern adds grace to the effort.

3. Science is using the data within patterns to repeat and scale.

Just like using effort too long without transitioning to art, so is the same with art and transitioning into science. With the boom of predictive data, we can study the inputs and outputs of patterns to create if this – then that logic. Science takes the natural aspects of a pattern and formalizes them with measures. It allows patterns to be repeated across multiple players and teams which allows work to scale with quality and efficiency.

Self-awareness is the key to understanding where in this scale work is today. It’s about stepping back and looking at the whole system before just jumping on the treadmill to run hard. Self-awareness is also what informs when to switch gears. That’s about individual and organizational readiness to adopt a new way of working.

At Exude, we have four leadership behaviors that center our work: be self-aware, be well, be inclusive, and be accountable. These behaviors drive success within this entire scale. Leadership is working this scale and balancing the focus on people and tasks as well as growth and scale. For more information about our leadership programs, please fill out the form below to connect with our experts: