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Jim's Gems: Efficiency or Effectiveness?

January 12, 2009
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The words effectiveness and efficiency are used often and, at times, there seems to be a fine line between the two terms. Effectiveness and efficiency, from a quality perspective, are two results that we must have working in tandem. However, have you ever thought about the difference between them? Read the following that I found in some of my old notes:

They both sound good, however, when given the opportunity to select the one of most importance, many manufacturers would choose efficiency over effectiveness. Why?

It is perceived that efficiency is more of a business metric of which profits are a product. Most managers want to run an efficient operation, and we spend a lot of time and energy trying to get there. But it is equally, if not more important to make our businesses effective.

Efficiency means doing things with a minimal effort-low input for high output. It means doing things right.

Effectiveness is doing the right things right; that is what we want. We can be as efficient as possible and be considered world-class, but at doing the wrong things.

We can practice the wrong technique, function or methodology, and work diligently at the application until we have it “nailed.” Then, we still might find ourselves wondering and worrying about why our business is not doing well; why our customers aren’t coming back; why warranty expense is out of control; why sales are down and profits are dropping-even though everything is working like a well-oiled machine.

When you visualize yourself or your business, don’t just see yourself doing things right; See yourself doing the right things right! And remember that sometimes the right thing, even if done imperfectly, can beat the heck out of a flawless performance of the wrong thing.

This holds true for everyone, not just those of us in the manufacturing business. It makes just as much sense for athletes, homemakers, teachers or students-anyone who really cares about excellence!

With this in mind, we might do well to think, “It’s great to be efficient, but effectiveness is what we really need to be pursuing.” If indeed we are truly effective, efficiency will follow, but the reverse may not be true.

Agree with the above or not, it is something to spend time in thought and reach your own conclusion. Think about it…
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