Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring

Efficient vs Effective: How Similar Are They?


The web defines efficient as: “Acting or producing effectively with minimum waste, expense, or unnecessary effort. Acting directly to produce an effect. Causing less waste or requiring less effort than comparable devices or methods. Used in combination.”

A minimum done (input or effort) to reach a maximum outcome or output. Car gas mileage – 40 miles to the gallon vs 24 miles to the gallon. The 40 miles/gal car is more efficient.

How work is structured can focus on finding ways to minimize the effort to generate reliably the results we seek. To become more efficient you need to focus on metrics that will confirm whether or not your efforts are making you more efficient.

But what about effective? One of the ways the web defines it as “having an intended or expected effect”. Its focus is on what needs to be accomplished and then measuring whether your efforts were effective in delivering it.

Being effective is much more elusive than striving for efficiency. It is much harder to design and sustain. It’s less quantifiable and more prone to subjective interpretation.

Think of effectiveness as a byproduct of alignment. Where you have a goal and your actions help get you to the desired goal. To be effective, your focus must be on achieving the outcome you choose to pursue.

I find it takes a lot of work to be effective. Why is this? Usually, we don’t spend enough time to clarify and develop clearly what we want or need to accomplish. When we don’t, it’s hard to judge whether we are effective in what we do. Add to this big concepts, small details, and humans all mixed in a pot trying to reach a given goal and you begin to see how “messy” becoming effective can be.

To be efficient, we have already found a path to accomplishing what we want to achieve reliably. This path is already effective for the outcome it produces. Now we choose to optimize the process to become more efficient.

Seek first to become more effective by better focusing your efforts on the outcomes you desire. Then seek efficiency to minimize your efforts in sustaining them. As you see, they are much more different than they are similar.

Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring


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