Effective versus efficient

One of the long standing debates I've had with other reliability peers over the years is the use of effective versus efficient. This came up again when someone tweeted the following:

Effective means it #works. Efficient means it #works well. Compliant means it does not #work at all

— Francesco Metalli (@fmetalli) April 2, 2014

I disagreed with his statement and replied back.

@fmetalli @fmsReliability I disagree. Effective means it's done right. Efficient means it's done effortlessly.

— Jason Verly (@mygeekdaddy) April 2, 2014

I followed up with.

@fmetalli @fmsReliability However, I can have people do something effortlessly wrong. Effective > Efficient

— Jason Verly (@mygeekdaddy) April 2, 2014

This goes back to my first job, I was three months out of college and in a review meeting on the first project I was going to be leading. The review meeting included a senior engineer, the engineering manager, the plant manager, and the VP of operations. Halfway through my presentation the senior engineer sat up and plainly stated to the entire group,

"You have no clue what you're talking about."

I'm about to pass out in front of this group because the senior engineer, who had about 40y of experience, has just called me out in front of everyone. The point he raised was that I had stated the project being considered was the most efficient design option from the three I had reviewed. The review meeting concluded and the senior engineer asked that I stop by his office after lunch. I came back from lunch and knocked on the engineer's door. Sitting on his desk was a care worn dictionary opened to the 'E' section. He asked me to sit down and look up the word efficient. I did and found:

Efficient: capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy.1

He then asked me to look up the word effective. I did that too and found:

Effective: producing a result that is wanted; having an intended effect.2

I sat there with a blank look on my face, uncertain of what to do next. The engineer then asked me how could I be so certain my choice was the most efficient when it hadn't even been built yet. I didn't think it was possible, but my face got an even more blank expression. The engineer then smiled and told me to relax. He explained that my first priority should be ensuring that whatever choice is made, it is the most effective process. Once the process is up and running, then you can focus on making it the most efficient process. He said you can't be effective and do things wrong, but you can efficiently make mistakes all day long.

Lesson learned... First make sure it's effective, then make sure it's efficient.