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.
Effectiveness is all about doing the right things; it is result oriented. It is when one’s objectives are in line with their main goals, and indirectly your purpose. It is finding ways to improve outcomes. For example, if your goal is to increase awareness and sales of a particular product to reach a particular target, you should engage in tasks or activities that will help move you closer to your goals (eg. 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. It is using better ways to get something done well in the shortest amount of time possible, while utilizing the least amount of resources and/or costs. An example of efficiency would be using a computerized system to get things done accurately 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.
In fact, there are four possibilities:
- Effective and Efficient
- Effective and Inefficient
- Ineffective and Efficient
- Ineffective and Inefficient
It is not possible for an organization or person to reach peak productivity levels, if they are lacking in either efficiency or effectiveness (Number 2, 3 and 4). If anything, they’re 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.
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, rather than effectiveness. It is perfectly understandable – being efficient is a whole lot easier than being effective. Being efficient involves improvements on a smaller, more manageable scale; effectiveness however requires a whole lot of brainstorming about one’s goals, values and different approaches, 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.
So how does one increase their effectiveness?
Put some time aside to evaluate these few things :
- Clarify the What – focusing on the results you want to achieve and defining the picture of success.
- 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.