Efficiency vs. Effectiveness: What’s the Difference?

There are a lot of confusing words in the English language, and the two words efficiency vs. effectiveness are no strangers to confusion.

People in any number of fields mix them up, so, whether you’re in business management or on the factory floor, you’re likely to see and hear mix ups with these words.

What is the Difference Between Efficiency and Effectiveness?

Which word should I use, efficiency or effectiveness?

In this post, I want to discuss the differences between efficiency and effectiveness. I will go over their definitions and their functions within a sentence; I will use example sentences, so you can see exactly how they differ; and I will reveal an easy trick to keep track of the two for your future writing.

After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever mix up effectiveness and efficiency again.

When to Use Efficiency

efficiency v effectiveness example worksheetsEfficiency is a noun that means the quality or property of being efficient. And efficient means producing with a minimum of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort.

  • We are producing more cars this year due to an increase in efficiency.
  • The fuel efficiency of my motorcycle is much higher than my truck.
  • The new manager restructured his department with great speed and efficiency.

In this sense of the word, the focus of efficiency centers on how something is done. Whether or not a task is done with minimal waste or minimal effort is the primary concern if you use the word efficiency.

The adjective efficient does have one additional sense, however, which might be the reason for the confusion between today’s two words.

The second definition of efficient bears no economic implications, as does the first. It is defined as acting directly to produce an effect.

  • The efficient cause of the revolution was the assassination of the king.

In this sense, efficient describes the cause or reason that something else is happening. The efficient cause in our example was the king’s assassination, which led to a revolution. See more on this here.

When to Use Effectiveness

efficiency versus effectiveness grammar rulesEffectiveness is also a noun and is defined as the degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result.

  • I am not sure of the effectiveness of that diet plan.
  • His effectiveness as a public speaker is outstanding.
  • The effectiveness of this procedure is still widely debated.

As is the case with other similar words, the difference between effectiveness and efficiency has to do with whether or not something is produced at all and how something is produced.

Effectiveness focuses more on whether or not something can be accomplished at all, while efficiency focuses on how to get it done in a way that minimizes waste or time.

If you were to call someone an effective speaker (as we did in the above example), you might think of someone who is convincing or persuasive, someone whom people understand, someone who is relatable, etc.

effectiveness or efficiency meanings in managementConversely, if you were to call someone an efficient speaker, you might think of someone who says what needs to be said and nothing more. He gets to the point and is done.

As you can see, these words clearly evoke a very different kind of speaker, so it’s important not to mix them up.

Trick to Remember the Difference

If you don’t think you can remember all this, don’t worry. Here is a handy trick to remember the meaning of efficiency and effectiveness.

Think of the word efficiency as a science: the science of minimizing waste, time or effort. Science and Efficiency have similar internal spellings, both containing “CIENC.”

When thinking about effectiveness, take a look at what word is inside of it: effective. Effectiveness is the degree to which you are effective, whether or not you can get things done.

Summary

The two words effectiveness vs. efficiency broadly relate to each other, but they have different meanings.

Efficiency has a primarily economic sense.

Effectiveness deals with the degree to which something can produce a desired effect.

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