Effectiveness trumps Efficiency

Sometimes when I bowl, I make it my goal to bowl fast and loud.  I accelerate my approach, and fling the ball as fast as I can.  The result?  It’s really loud when the ball hits the pins (if it hits the pins) and my game ends more quickly.  My score is also lower.  If the goal is to be fast and loud, I win!  If the goal is to win, I lose. I am efficient, but not effective.

In high school chemistry, my lab partner (Steve Uslabar, for you curious old cronies) and I had a motto: “Accuracy is not important; speed is of the essence.”  We were both fairly good at chem, and would rather get a B and goof off part of the period, even though we were capable of an A.  Efficient, not effective.

“Learn from your mistakes.”  Nonsense!  Sounds painful!  I’d much rather learn from the mistakes of others — FAR more efficient, right?  Totally.  Effective?  Nope.  The effective path, the path that helps us learn more, is the path of our own trial and error.  Darnit.

If you’ve read the 4 Levels of Maturity post, and wonder how to get selfish people to act less selfishly, the efficient way is to tell them to knock it off – “stop being so selfish”.  Efficient, in that it takes less time and is more direct. Not always effective, though. The effective path?  Surround self-centered people with patterns of other-centered behavior. That’s effective. (For more, read Leadership and Self-Deception.)

On Facebook, Linked-In, and Twitter, I put out a call for some comments on this issue. Most agree with the headline, but one has another take:

Holly Donato says Efficient connotes a superior ROI. Effective seems to be just getting the job done.

That’s a good point — efficiency can be a selling point, and ought not be shoved aside as pointless — it is good to be efficient.

Other thoughts:

From Scott Allison: The antonym for both words is “The D.M.V.

From Randy Snyder: Using an Iowa based process: It’s efficient to mow your yard with a brush hog. It’s not very effective if your front yard is a corn field.

From Ed Estlow Killing a mosquito with a stick of dynamite is effective. Slapping it as it bites is efficient.

From @tracepick: “Effectiveness is about ‘how well’ and efficiency is about ‘how much'”

From @MichaelLeaders: “I say effectiveness goes to quality of result, while efficiency goes to ease of result. Might be same might not.”

From @jimfreeland: “being rude to customers/clients when you’re in a hurry to get your work done.”

And from Chris B:  “One should not assume efficiency is a bad thing, sometimes it s sorely needed. Most effective people probably have efficient habits or efficient helpers.”

Technology helps us be efficient.  Systems help us be efficient.  Stay efficient, and go the extra mile to ensure your work is also effective.”

  1. Jayna Locke
    | Reply

    Efficiency and effectiveness both have their places. Many companies have done well for themselves by taking a “shoot then aim” approach to getting a product or service to market, since there is value in being the first. The risk, of course, is burning bright and then burning out.

    A strategy of taking careful aim has helped many a company to hit the target more effectively.

    I present to you MySpace as Exhibit A, and Facebook as Exhibit B. MySpace was efficient. Facebook is effective.

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