Are You Efficient or Effective?

Almost everyone can be efficient under normal circumstances. That’s good since in order to survive in today’s competitive business environment you must be efficient. 

 

The thing is I don’t think merely surviving is a worthy goal. I do think however that succeeding is. 

 

If you’re going to succeed in business or any other endeavor efficiency alone will not do. You must also be effective. 

 

The difference between effectiveness and efficiency can be summed up like this: Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing things right.

 

One of the biggest wastes of time and money any person or organization can undertake is to be efficient at doing something that doesn’t need to be done. 

 

I would much rather have people working for me who are only partially effective at doing things that need to be done than to be 100% efficient at doing things that add little or no value to the organization. 

 

Spreadsheets are an example of being efficient without being effective. Some of the least effective people I know are highly efficient at creating beautiful spreadsheets with what appears to be a wealth of information. 

 

But upon closer review you see there is no real useable information contained in the spreadsheet. No data, no statistics, and no percentages. They could have just as easily created a word document but people seem to fall for information contained in little cells with lots of color. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of spreadsheets when properly used. A colleague of mine is currently creating a spreadsheet loaded with actionable information laid out in an understandable format. That is a highly effective use of the tools available when using a spreadsheet. 

 

I use spreadsheets as an example because too many ineffective people are using them to hide their ineffectiveness. Efficient leaders may fall for that but effective leaders will not. 

 

So, are you efficient or effective? Ask yourself that question frequently. Ask yourself if what you’re doing at any given moment needs to be done. What might the consequences be if it weren’t done? Would anyone notice? 

 

Then ask yourself what you could be doing if you weren’t doing that. Would what you could be doing be more valuable to you or your organization. And by the way, you MUST be honest with yourself or don’t bother asking the questions at all. Lying to yourself is neither effective or efficient. 

 

I think if you’re honest with yourself you’ll discover that many of the things you do efficiently are things you like to do. It’s likely you’ll also discover that many of the things you don’t like to do, or are unsure of how to do, are things that would make you far more effective. 

 

That’s why it’s relatively easy to be efficient and a serious challenge to be effective.


The most successful people opt for effectiveness over efficiency. Which one do you prefer?