Efficient, efficacious, effective, do they mean the same?← Back to blog
In the field of project management the precision of concepts has important consequences on the productiveness of a company. In that way Efficiency, Efficacy and Effectiveness are three concepts that, although keeping a strong closeness, are kind of distant from each other. When we apply them, and therefore understand them, they have their own impact on project development and the success of a business.
In order to better understand the relationship and difference between the parts of this trio we have to start admitting the following principles: first, the customer’s needs determine and define the features of services and goods. Second, the levels of efficiency, efficacy and effectiveness determine the use of resources, the productive chain, the quality and the customer’s satisfaction. An easy and practical way to understand the former sentences and concepts is to ask ourselves how much we apply them:
- Am I efficient?
The way resources are used (or wasted) throughout the productive chain determines the efficiency. Therefore, I’m more efficient depending on how much I make the most of the resources I have.
Far away we have left the careless aim of producing at any cost. Nowadays, how we do it is one of the most crucial points in business administration. The efficiency is a necessary thing and to take advantage of the resources in the most intelligent way is a productivity principle. Because of the former the efficiency is on the side of time, the produce chain and everything we consider as resources, even human resources. It is clear that the contrary of efficiency is to waste improperly…
- Am I efficacious?
The efficacy pays no attention on how we do it, but only on accomplishment. I’m efficacious if I accomplish the goals established on the company’s or project’s dashboard. That was easy to understand!
In every single company the necessity of accomplishing goals rules. And highly possible the two most prominent goals are: production and sales. At the same time it means the more sales I do the more clients I get. Then, more clients usually mean more customer satisfaction. Consequently, as clear as water, the efficacy always points towards quality and satisfaction.
- Am I effective?
It seems there’s not more space for differences between these words but, effectiveness may be the most interesting of the three. To be effective is to accomplish the goals (to be efficacious) employing the best and most economic methodology (to be efficient). Accordingly to that reason effectiveness takes us to satisfy the customer’s needs throughout the optimal use of resources and means. We are talking about the ideal mix of efficacy and efficiency.
Is it possible to be only efficient or only efficacious? It seems true, but that way any project could reach the threshold of a positive balance. It is possible to be only efficacious, but is it desirable? Of course not. In fact, being very good accomplishing goals but wasting resources and time is very often more expensive than simply not to accomplish anything.
In one sentence
All the mentioned ideas and the very importance of effectiveness can be set in a couple of easy sentences: doing the right things and doing things right.
To do the right thing means to achieve a certain objective, to deliver the product and to give the service following the expected features and quality, under schedule, respecting conditions as much as possible and responding to customers’ needs. ¡All the package! That’s to be efficacious.
To do things right means to do something in the best manner. That’s to say, to take advantage of resources in the most profitable way, without wasting. That’s to be efficient.
In this moment it worth to remember Peter Ducker, the management guru, when he says: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all”. I hope everyone interprets it under their own experience.
Bonus track: effect, efficacy, efficiency and effectiveness
If at the end of the road there’s any intention of knowing a bit more about the closeness of these concepts we have to look for their common ancestor: the word “effect”. Effect comes from the Latin word effectus, which is the participle of the verb efficere, meaning to complete. Completing tasks and how to do it right, that’s what we are talking about, about efficacy and efficiency.