degree to which a process minimizes waste of resources
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These two attitudes, the attitude of deifying mere efficiency, mere success, without regard to the moral qualities lying behind it, and the attitude of disregarding efficiency, disregarding practical results, are the Scylla and Charybdis between which every earnest reformer, every politician who desires to make the name of his profession a term of honor instead of shame, must steer. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Efficiency describes the extent to which time, effort or cost is well used for an intended task or purpose.

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  • First, the welfare state is not a subject apart, but fits naturally into the framework of economic analysis. Secondly,the theoretical arguments support the existence of the welfare state not only for well known equity reasons but also - and powerfully - in efficiency terms.
    • Nicholas Barr Economics Of The Welfare State Chapter 1, Introduction, p. 3
  • There is an efficiency case for an institutional welfare state.
    • Nicholas Barr Economics Of The Welfare State Chapter 4, State Intervention, p. 93


  • Much is said about scientific management of work. It is a narrow view which restricts the science which secures efficiency of operation to movements of the muscles. The chief opportunity for science is the discovery of the relations of a man to his work — including his relations to others who take part — which will enlist his intelligent interest in what he is doing. Efficiency in production often demands division of labor. But it is reduced to mechanical routine unless workers see the technical, intellectual, and social relationships involved in what they do, and engage in their work because of the motivation furnished by such perceptions. The tendency to reduce such things as efficiency of activity and scientific management to purely technical externals is evidence of the one-sided stimulation of thought given to those in control of industry — those who supply its aims. Because of their lack of all-round and well-balanced social interest, there is not sufficient stimulus for attention to the human factors and relationships in industry. Intelligence is narrowed to the factors concerned with technical production and marketing of goods. No doubt, a very acute and intense intelligence in these narrow lines can be developed, but the failure to take into account the significant social factors means none the less an absence of mind, and a corresponding distortion of emotional life.
    • John Dewey (1916) Democracy and Education, section seven: Implications of Human Association
  • Modern institutions are transparently purposive and that we are in the midst of an evolutionary progression toward more efficient forms.
    • Frank Dobbin (1994), "Organizational Models of Culture: The social construction of rational organizing principles," in: Diana Crane (ed) The Sociology of Culture: Emerging theoretical perspectives. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 138
  • 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.
    • Peter Drucker (1963) Managing for Business Effectiveness. p. 53–60.


  • Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe.


  • The aim of our efficiency has not been to produce goods, but to harvest dollars... The production of goods was always secondary to the securing of dollars.
    • Henry Gantt cited in: Walter N. Polakov (1922) "The measurement of human work" in: Wallace Clark (1922) The Gantt chart, a working tool of management. New York, Ronald Press. Preface. p. 152
  • The increase of this efficiency is essentially the problem of the manager, and the amount to which it can be increased by proper study is, in most cases, so great as to be almost incredible.
    • Henry Gantt (1910) Work, Wages, and Profits: Their Influence on the Cost of Living. p. 14
  • In the science of administration, whether public or private, the basic "good" is efficiency. The fundamental objective of the science of administration is the accomplishment of the work in hand with the least expenditure of man-power and materials. Efficiency is thus axiom number one in the value scale of administration.


  • Those who are in poverty may be able to get a bare sustenance but they are not able to obtain those necessaries which will permit them to maintain a state of physical efficiency.


  • The practice of first developing a clear and precise definition of a process without regard for efficiency, and then using it as a guide and a test in exploring equivalent processes possessing other characteristics, such as greater efficiency, is very common in mathematics. It is a very fruitful practice which should not be blighted by premature emphasis on efficiency in computer execution.


  • Efficiency, competence: Black students know the deadly, neutral definition of these words. There seldom has been a more efficient system for profiteering, through human debasement, than the plantations, of a while ago. Today, the whole world sits, as quietly scared as it can sit, afraid that, tomorrow, America may direct its efficiency and competence toward another forest for defoliation, or clean-cut laser-beam extermination.
    • June Jordan, "Black Studies: Bringing Back The Person" (1969), in Civil Wars: Observations from the Front Lines of America (1981), p. 47


  • In randori we learn to employ the principle of maximum efficiency even when we could easily overpower an opponent. Indeed, it is much more impressive to beat an opponent with proper technique than with brute force. This lesson is equally applicable in daily life: the student realized persuasion backed up by sound logic is ultimately more effective than coercion.


  • If adequate motivations could be assured, a far higher degree of efficiency could be maintained in socialized industries than in industries operated for private gain.
  • My watchword if I were in office at this moment would be summed up in one single word—the word "efficiency." (Cheers.) If we have not learned from this war that we have greatly lagged behind in efficiency we have learned nothing, and our treasure and our lives are thrown away unless we learn the lesson which the war has given us. (Hear, hear.) ... There is another branch of national efficiency in which I think an energetic Government might take a great part, in the way of stimulation and inquiry—I mean our commerce and our industry. (Hear, hear.) ... I believe that in that branch of our national efficiency there is much to be done by an energetic Government. But last, and, perhaps, greatest of all, there comes a question that underlies the efficiency of our nation—not of our services, not of any particular branch of our nation, but of the nation as a whole—I mean education (loud cheers), in which we are lagging sadly, and with which we shall have peacefully to fight other nations with weapons like the bow and arrow if we do not progress.
  • The ultimate measurement is effectiveness, not efficiency.
    • Jack J. J. Phillips (2012) Accountability in Human Resource Management. p. 175


  • These two attitudes, the attitude of deifying mere efficiency, mere success, without regard to the moral qualities lying behind it, and the attitude of disregarding efficiency, disregarding practical results, are the Scylla and Charybdis between which every earnest reformer, every politician who desires to make the name of his profession a term of honor instead of shame, must steer. He must avoid both under penalty of wreckage, and it avails him nothing to have avoided one, if he founders on the other. People are apt to speak as if in political life, public life, it ought to be a mere case of striving upward — striving toward a high peak. The simile is inexact. Every man who is striving to do good public work is traveling along a ridge crest, with the gulf of failure on each side — the gulf of inefficiency on the one side, the gulf of unrighteousness on the other.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, in "Latitude and Longitude among Reformers" in the "Century" (June 1900), later in The Strenuous Life : Essays and Addresses (1900)


  • The criterion of efficiency dictates that choice of alternatives which produces the largest result for the given application of resources.
    • Herbert A. Simon (1945, p. 179); As cited in: Harry M. Johnson (1966) Sociology: A Systematic Introduction. p. 287
  • If stability and efficiency required that there existed markets that extended infinitely far into the future — and these markets clearly did not exist — what assurance do we have of the stability and efficiency of the capitalist system?
    • Joseph E. Stiglitz (2001) Autobiographical Essay for the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel


  • From the point of view of social health and economic efficiency, society should obtain its material equipment at the cheapest price possible, and after providing for depreciation and expansion should distribute the whole product to its working members and their dependents. What happens at present, however, is that its workers are hired at the cheapest price which the market (as modified by organization) allows, and that the surplus, somewhat diminished by taxation, is distributed to the owners of property.
  • There is no more fatal obstacle to efficiency than the revelation that idleness has the same privileges as industry, and that for every additional blow with the pick or hammer an additional profit will be distributed among shareholders who wield neither.
  • The merits of nationalization do not stand or fall with the efficiency or inefficiency of existing state departments as administrators of industry.
  • Scientific management is not any efficiency device, not a device of any kind for securing efficiency; nor is it may bunch or group of efficiency devices. It is not a new system of figuring costs; it is not a new scheme of paying men; it is not a piece work system; it is not a bonus system; it is not a premium system; it is no scheme for paying men; it is not holding a stop watch on a man and writing things down about him; it is not time study; it is notmotion study, not an analysis of the movements of men; it is not the printing and loading & unloading of a ton or two of blanks on a set of men and saying "Here's your system; go and use it". It is not divided foremanship or functional foremanship; it is not any of the devices which the average man calls to mind when scientific management is spoken of.
    • Frederick Winslow Taylor (1912) in: The Taylor and other systems of shop management: Hearings before Special committee of the House of representatives to investigate the Taylor and other systems of shop management under authority of H. res. 90 … [Oct. 4, 1911-Feb. 12, 1912], Volume 3. p. 1387


  • Man is an agent... a center of unfolding impulsive activity—"teleological" activity... seeking... some concrete, objective, impersonal end. ...he is possessed of a taste for effective work, and a distaste for futile effort. He has a sense of the merit of serviceability or efficiency and of the demerit of futility, waste, or incapacity. This aptitude or propensity may be called the instinct of workmanship.


  • Don't misunderstand what we administrators mean when we use the shorthand of efficiency and economy. When we say efficiency we think of homes saved from disease, of boys and girls in school prepared for life, of ships and mines protected against disaster... We do not think in terms of gadgets and paper clips alone. And when we talk of economy, we fight waste of all human resources, still much too scanty to meet human needs.
    • Leonard D. White in his dialogue with T. V. Smith on the state of the civic arts, cited in: Dwight Waldo. The Administrative State, 1948, p. 196.
  • More computing sins are committed in the name of efficiency (without necessarily achieving it) than for any other single reason - including blind stupidity.
    • William Wulf "A Case Against the GOTO," Proceedings of the 25th National ACM Conference, August 1972, pp. 791-97.

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