Efficacy – Concept, efficiency, effectiveness and examples

We explain what efficiency is and what are its differences with efficiency. Also, what is effectiveness and examples of effectiveness.

Efficacy is not focused on how to achieve a goal while it is being met.

What is efficiency?

According to the Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the Royal Spanish Academy, the effectiveness would be the quality of something that produces the desired or expected effect, for which, however, the use of the synonymous voice efficiency is recommended. It is a concept also linked to effectiveness, especially in the corporate and business world, in which the distinction between all these terms is often emphasized, known as the “Three Ess of Administration”.

Broadly speaking, we can define efficacy as the degree of achievement of pre-set objectives an object has, a procedure or even a person. Thus, something is effective when the expected result is obtained from it, regardless of how it was obtained or if there was a better way to obtain it.

The efficacy is a value in most professional fields and social aspects of culture, even when it involves unorthodox methods.

Difference between effectiveness and efficiency

Efficacy - efficiency - effectiveness
Efficiency looks for the most convenient way to achieve what is projected.

While by effectiveness we understand the ability of an object, person or procedure to achieve the proposed objectiveWithout paying attention to the means or resources used to do so, whether there were better paths or the cost to achieve said objective represents, efficiency is understood as something similar but more desirable: it is the capacity of that same entity or process to achieve the objectives. proposed results, but this time using the best possible means.

This means that a procedure can be effective, but expensive, brutal, or cumbersome, but it does not matter because in the end he always achieves his goal; While an efficient procedure will be one that always achieves its objective in a way that is also economical, suitable or convenient, depending on which area it is, of course.


Effectiveness - efficacy - efficiency
Effectiveness achieves results based on the capabilities that the specific case implies.

When we talk about effectiveness, especially in the administrative field, we are referring precisely to the balance between effectiveness and efficiency, that is, to the achievement of a result according to the capacities that the specific case implies. Effectiveness is often understood as the union of effectiveness and efficiency, that is, as the ideal panorama of the situation, or as the closeness that we can achieve in a procedure or through the use of an object.

Thus, the relationship between these three terms can be considered according to this formula:

Efficacy + Efficiency = Effectiveness

Which is to say that the calculation of the efficiency and effectiveness of a process allows us to understand, even in a general panorama, the ideal functioning of the process or the system in which it is inserted. Thus, it would be impossible to be efficient without first achieving good performance in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.

Examples of efficacy

A simple example of efficiency (but also of efficiency and effectiveness) it could be the extraction of gold from a mine, suppose.

The efficiency of the mine has to do only with the fact that there is indeed gold inside and that this gold can be extracted to the surface in some specific way, without dwelling on the type of mining or the necessary materials.

However, its efficiency has to do with the cost of mining said gold, with the personnel involved, with the time it takes to remove it and other similar variables that determine how convenient the mining procedure is in that specific case, and that allow us to evaluate if there will be other better (more efficient) methods, such as the use of explosives, robots, etc.

Y Finally, its effectiveness would be evaluated annually or semi-annually, according to how often the mine would make a profit, once its effectiveness has been evaluated and its efficiency taken into account (as well as other possible routes of improvement).