Efficiency and Effectiveness (Definitions and Differences)

Efficiency and Effectiveness (Definitions and Differences) post focuses on the key areas of our day to day lives and our understanding of these concepts will go a long way to making our lives effective and efficient in all areas of our endeavour.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

Effectiveness and efficiency are key words in Management. Management itself being an offshoot of Economics, while Economics hinges on the fact that resources are usually scarce but human wants are almost limitless, or as some say, insatiable. Scarcity of resources practically foist on every one the need to manage or be prudent in the use of resources.

Efficiency and Effectiveness (Definitions and Differences)

In delving more into the issues of efficiency and effectiveness, we will consider the meaning of effectiveness and also explain efficiency. We will then examine the difference between difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Can we do that? I am sure we can! Here we go…

What is Effectiveness?

The root word here is effect. (See Affect vs Effect) There are two derivational morphemes that combine to form the word ‘’effectiveness’. These bound morphemes are ‘-ive’ and ‘ness’; with ‘-ive’ as an adjective-forming suffix and ‘ness’ as a noun-forming suffix. Effectiveness, as a noun, means the state or art of producing/causing a result, especially the desired or intended result. Effectiveness also means a state/art of producing favourable impression; that is, a state of successfully producing a strong impression on people.

Consider these examples:

  • The effectiveness of herbs in treating malaria is indubitable.
  • There is effectiveness in his use of imagery.

What is Efficiency?

Efficiency is the noun form of the adjective ‘efficient’. It means the quality or state of being efficient, competent or effectiveness. I another sense, it means the ratio of the useful work done by a machine, engine, device, etc., to the energy supplied to it, often expressed as a percentage

Effective vs Efficient

These two words are closely related but are adjectives that are not exactly the same.


Effective has to do with causing a result, especially the desired or intended result; it stresses the actual production of or the power to produce an effect. Consider these examples:

  • The debater gave an effective rebuttal to his opponent’s points.
  • There is a need to proffer an effective solution to the water supply problem.


Efficient, on its own part, has to do with what is capable of achieving the desired result with the minimum use of resources, time, and effort; it suggests an acting or a potential for action or use in such a way as to avoid loss or waste of energy in effecting, producing, or functioning. See these examples:

  • I need an efficient small car.
  • An efficient use of personnel is a plus to the company.
  • Her car is fuel efficient.

Related Words


In the formal sense, the word ‘effectual’ is often used and it suggests the accomplishment of a desired result especially as viewed after the fact, as in:

  • The measures she took to catch the rat proved effectual.
  • This idea exerts a direct and effectual influence on his thinking.


Another closely related word that is also used in the formal sense is the word ‘efficacious’ which refers to having the power to achieve a desired result, especially an improvement. It also suggests possession of a special quality or virtue that gives effective power, as in:

  • A detergent is efficacious in removing grease from clothes.
  • Diet may be as efficacious as medication in controlling the condition.

Cost-effective and Efficient

The proper way to say this is ‘cost-effective’ not ‘cost-efficient’. What is cost-effective is efficient. ‘Cost-effective’ is a unit of meaning and should not be treated as two separate words. It is an adjective and the nominal form is ‘cost-effectiveness. What is cost effective is what is economical in terms of tangible benefits produced based on the money spent.

  • The government needs to embark on cost-effective measures to combat poverty.

Efficiency and Effectiveness in Management

In daily activities, resources are deployed to meet needs or achieve goals. Usually, the primary interest or focus of managers is result or impact of deployment of resources. That is, what is the effectiveness of resources deployed? Has it brought the desired result? So, effectiveness is synonymous with impact.

However, considering the fact that rarely does any organisation have a bottomless purse or inexhaustible pool of resources from which to draw and achieve a goal or goals, the question of how much resources are deployed to achieve set goals become quite germane. In other words, it is not just enough to produce results, but the amount of resources deployed and the unit of output must be measured. That is the focus of efficiency. We are talking about input, effort and time against output.

Difference between Efficiency and Effectiveness

From the foregoing, there is definitely a difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is the language in serious businesses or ventures that are meant to bring profit.

For example, if Mr James produces 100 loaves of bread from a bag of flour in three hours and Mr John produces the same quantity in two hours, the latter is obviously more efficient, but they are both effective, because they both accomplished the set goals, which is to produce loaves of bread.

Difference between Efficiency and Effectiveness in Management with Examples

We can see the seriousness we attach to efficiency in various fields: engineering, manufacturing, sports, etc. In the world of automobile production for example, manufacturers upgrade the architecture and materials used in production from time to time so as to accomplish more speed and less fuel consumption.

Fuel economy is topmost in the mind of most of prospective buyers of vehicles. If I cover the distance between Kano and Lagos in three hours, how much fuel would I use up? So, covering the distance is effectiveness, but when I begin to import factors such as the time and amount of fuel I consume, I am already considering efficiency.

In manufacturing, the smoothness of operation, to save time and materials, produce more and ensure safety (efficiency), is the focus in ergonomics. The explanation is clearer in the statistics-crazy world of European football. We see stats such as: shots at goal, shot on target, goals scored, etc. It is from the European football circle that I first heard economic football – achieving result with minimal effort. (See a related concept: Economics of Football)

For instance, if Team A takes 15 shots at goal and scored three goals, and Team B takes 6 shots at goal and score the same number of goals, then Team B is obviously more efficient – makes the most of its chances. (Although Team A may play a more exciting game). Succinctly, effectiveness is focused solely on the result, while efficiency considers the inputs and time spent to produce a desired result.

Sharing is a Button Away

If this post has been beneficial to you, please ensure you effectively and efficiently share it amongst your families, friends, colleagues, associates, superordinates and subordinates. Sharing, as we say on Akademia, is just a click away! I will know if you did from the comment box!


In salutatory disposition, I wish to seriously appreciate and acknowledge my brotherly friend and friendly brother (elder and older, read the post), Isaac Ade-Fafila, a manager of resources and a university administrator par excellence for effectively and efficiently writing the chunk of this post. I merely crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s.  Thank you for your input in Akademia. Let us do this again!

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