When I posed the question:
Which has greater impact on success?
Efficiency or Effectiveness
The answers indicated an overwhelming affinity for effectiveness.
Professional people across all industries and in scores of positions would rather be effective than efficient. The ratio was nearly 14-to-one, with comments like:
You can be the most efficient person in the world but if you are not effective, you aren’t making any impact. Efficiency can be taught but effectiveness is a rare talent. — WH
If an electric car has a 100 mile range on a single charge we call that efficiency. But if our destination is 150 miles, it’s not too effective. — JV
Love this question, for me it’s effectiveness because effectiveness implies a successful outcome whereas efficiency implies the speed at which any old task which may or may not support the outcome can be completed and in my mind to much focus on short term efficiency is often the cause of missing completely the path of least resistance for the big picture monster sized great outcome. — PH
But — my poll only tells half of the story.
Despite a 14:1 margin favoring effectiveness, most professionals are too often preaching one preference while practicing another.
Here are a few examples of efficiency trumping effectiveness:

  • Firing off an email (or 2, or 20) when a phone call or face-to-face conversation would yield a better result.
  • Allowing a poor manager to damage employee engagement because confronting him or her would upset the (dysfunctional) equilibrium.
  • Handing a new hire an out-dated job description, with the comment, “A lot of this has changed.”
  • Not taking enough vacation time.
  • Once-a-year performance reviews.
  • Skipping once-a-year performance reviews.
  • Meeting agendas so tightly arranged that actual dialog is discouraged.

I am certain you can think of many more (and would love for you share them).
Being effective is about making a difference, efficiency is about checking things off a list. Unless your purpose is to add check marks to a list, efficiency is only a means to the end.
The mix of process and purpose will be different for everyone. It’s important for you to understand the formula that renders the best result for you — makes you the most effective.
Action thought:
Take time to consider an activity or function that isn’t living up to its potential. Instead of looking for way to alter the process, come at the solution from the opposite perspective by asking, “How can we do this more effectively.”
My consulting efforts are aimed at helping companies and individuals get better at things they already do well. If you’d like a coach who understands YOU and wants you to succeed, I’d be excited to lend a hand.