Efficiency versus Effectiveness

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Efficiency versus Effectiveness

Efficiency vs Effectiveness.


Both terms are adjectives that begin with the letter ‘e’, and are used to describe how work is done. Not only that, they sound quite similar.

It is relatively easy to mistake one for the other, or use them interchangeably (a lot of people do!). However, these terms are anything but similar — in fact, they each carry completely different meanings. Let’s take a look at efficiency vs. effectiveness.

Effectiveness refers to doing the right things; it is result oriented. It is when one’s objectives are in line with their main goals, indirectly your purpose to achieve the desired result.

Increasing effectiveness is about finding ways to improve outcomes. 

For example, if your ultimate goal is to increase awareness and sales of a particular product to reach a particular target, your sales team should engage in sales processes with tasks or activities that will help move you closer to your goals (eg. competitive position, marketing and ads, in this scenario) , and not waste time on irrelevant tasks that do not serve your goals. This makes you effective.

Efficiency, however, is more about doing things right; this aspect is task oriented. Increase efficiency refers to using better ways to achieve an intended result in the shortest amount of time possible, while utilizing limited resources and or costs.

An example of efficiency would be using a computerized system to get things done accurately with fewer resources in a shorter span of time; as opposed to relying on manual methods to do the same thing, which is susceptible to human error and is more time consuming.

Either one can exist without the other; one can be effective but not efficient, and vice versa. It is entirely possible for one to be effective in achieving their goals, while being inefficient in the way they do it. It is also entirely possible to be none of both at all.

Consider whether you would want to be part of an efficient team or an effective team.

In fact, there are four possibilities:

1. Effective and Efficient

2. Effective and Inefficient

3. Ineffective and Efficient

4. Ineffective and Inefficient

It should be noted however that true, optimal productivity is a combination of both efficiency and effectiveness (Number 1) — the Holy Grail for every individual or organization.

It is not possible for an organization, or person to become high performing, if they are lacking in either efficiency or effectiveness (Number 2, 3 and 4). A team that is lacking of either is setting themselves up for either mediocrity or inevitable failure.

Effectiveness > Efficiency


In terms of order of importance, effectiveness should be prioritized over efficiency in all your considerations about productivity.

This however does not mean that you should disregard the importance of efficiency altogether — again, as mentioned earlier, productivity is a balanced combination of both.

Effectiveness involves the big picture. Putting effectiveness first just means that you should first and foremost focus on doing the right things in order to improve your chances of getting a good outcome.

Once you get yourself on track and laid out the basics, you can then look into how you can improve the way you do things. The logic here is to concentrate on being efficient at the tasks which are significant and are effective in contributing to your goals. There’s no point in particularly efficient when the tasks you carry out do not contribute to your purpose and goals.

To sum things up : efficiency is a modifier for effectiveness, not a substitute.

Efficiency is meaningless on its own.

The problem with most people is that they tend to gravitate towards efficiency or maximum output, rather than effectiveness. It is perfectly understandable — being efficient is a whole lot easier than being effective.

Efficient teams are viewed favorably by leadership for their ability to deliver maximum output with limited resources. Being efficient involves improvements on a smaller, more manageable scale; effectiveness however requires a whole lot of brainstorming about goals, values and different approaches combined with efficient leaders on a larger scale. And that is intimidating.

Not only that, people who put efficiency before effectiveness have this tendency of looking for better and perfect ways of doing things, and head nowhere instead — which ironically, leads to ineffectiveness.

Increasing Effectiveness


So how does one increase their effectiveness?

Put some time aside to evaluate these few things :

  1. Clarify the What- focusing on the results you want to achieve and defining the picture of success.
  2. Clarify and pursue key strategies that will give you the highest possibility for success.

Now that you’ve established your plan of action, you can focus on how to increase your efficiency. This would mean concentrating on the How’s — implementation of your strategies in the most efficient way possible, and improving how you do things as you go along.

In future articles, we will continue to explore efficiency vs effectiveness. This exploration will result in helpful tips that will skyrocket your productivity to optimum levels.

I hope you enjoyed the article

Chris Daily is a innovator focused on gamifying training while coaching agile teams. If you want to learn more about Chris, you can find him in the Agile Meridian community, on the Agile Meridian website, or on LinkedIn.

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