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Effectiveness (from Latin effectivus , 'causing') is a measure of effectiveness that describes the relationship between the achieved goal and the defined goal. It provides information on how close a result achieved has come to the desired result.


In economics , the difference to efficiency (as a measure of profitability ) lies in the independence of the financial expenditure . Effectiveness is a criterion for assessing whether a measure is suitable for achieving a specific goal. Only the extent and the quality of the extent to which the defined goal is achieved are the criteria for the existence of effectiveness. In the natural sciences , a general distinction is also made between efficiency and productivity , with efficiency being expressed as a dimensionless quantity or as a percentage because the parameters set in relation to one another have the same units (cf. energy efficiencies, water use efficiencies of plants, or radiation efficiencies) whereas productivity (from Latin producere "to produce") is characterized by different dimensional values ​​in numerators and denominators (e.g. products / Hour or yield / area).

The difference between effectiveness and efficiency

Working effectively means working in such a way that a desired result is achieved. Working efficiently means working in such a way that the result achieved and the means used are as cost-effective as possible and the benefits are greater than the costs ( economic principle ). The term costs does not only mean monetary costs and not only costs that arise immediately, but all negative consequences of the action.

  • Effectiveness describes the degree of target achievement (effectiveness, quality of target achievement).
  • Efficiency is a measure of profitability (cost-benefit ratio). [Note]

Examples that show the difference

  • You can put out a fire with water or champagne. Both lead to the goal and are therefore effective. Putting out the fire with champagne is more expensive and therefore not efficient. However, if water or another suitable extinguishing agent was not available, it can also be efficient to put out the fire with champagne if the benefits are greater than the costs of the champagne.
  • In the following example, the goal is to cut as many trees as possible . The trees can be felled with a chainsaw or a file. A chainsaw can cut more trees per unit of time than a file. That is why the degree of target achievement is higher with the chainsaw. The chainsaw is therefore more effective. If you take the tree cutter's wages as costs, the chainsaw is also more efficient, since the "number of trees felled / wages" is higher for the chainsaw than for the file. The chainsaw uses gasoline while the file does not use energy. If you only look at the cost of gasoline, the file is more efficient.
  • In a mathematical example, the fraction can be used as an estimate , which is accurate to 6 decimal places. Using the precalculated result “3.14159265358979323846” in a formula increases both efficiency, since the fraction does not have to be calculated, and effectiveness, since the result will be more precise than with the estimate. An elaborate formula for calculating an accuracy of several hundred decimal places increases the effectiveness once again, as one comes closer to the goal of the exact result, but lowers the efficiency, since the calculation causes more costs due to the increased effort. A 100% effectiveness cannot be achieved numerically because it cannot be represented by a finite number of decimal places . However, if only a certain number of decimal places can be processed due to technical restrictions, maximum effectiveness is achieved as soon as this number of decimal places is calculated correctly.
  • The well-known German proverb "Shoot at sparrows with cannons" also addresses the difference between effectiveness and efficiency: If the sparrows are hit, the desired goal is achieved (effectiveness); a lighter hunting instrument (such as a slingshot) would have made it possible to achieve this goal much more cheaply (more efficiently).

The distinction between effectiveness and efficiency according to Peter F. Drucker

A common, especially in the English-language economic literature distinction between Effectiveness ( "effectiveness") and Efficiency ( "efficiency") goes to Peter Drucker back to the following in an article in the Harvard Business Review:

“It is fundamentally the confusion between effectiveness and efficiency that stands between doing the right things and doing things right. There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all. "

In German this is often translated as follows:

  • Effectiveness: "Doing the right things."
  • Efficiency: "Doing things right."

In his book The Effective Executive , Drucker later wrote:

"[...] the executive is, first of all, expected to get the right things done. And this is simply saying that he is expected to be effective […] For manual work, we need only efficiency; that is, the ability to do things right rather than the ability to get the right things done. The manual worker can always be judged in terms of the quantity and quality of a definable and discrete output, such as a pair of shoes. "

In this context, however, Drucker wanted to show the difference between the tasks of company management and those of employees, so that the word efficiency would be translated here rather as performance .


[Note]Efficiency has many meanings (see Definition of Efficiency ). When differentiating between effectiveness and efficiency, however, it is always about efficiency in the sense of profitability .

Web links

Wiktionary: Effectiveness  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Effectiveness, efficiency. In: Online administrative dictionary. (olev.de).
  2. Anke Maiwald: Professionalization of social work through quality management? A study on the effectiveness and efficiency of QM systems for the social area. Diplomica Verlag, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8366-7316-7 , p. 20 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  3. ^ Peter Ferdinand Drucker: Managing for Business Effectiveness . In: Harvard Business Review . 3, May / June, 1963, pp. 53–60 (English, hbr.org [accessed May 24, 2016]).
  4. ^ Peter Ferdinand Drucker: The Effective Executive . Heinemann, London 1967, OCLC 229476 , p. 1 f . (English).