Effective means producing a desired or intended result. Effectiveness is an adverb of effective. This refers more to the relevance or usefulness of the output rather than mere mechanical output. The intent of the work seems to take precedence over the quantum of output or result in effectiveness. Doing the right things, working smarter, and impact of the output are typically associated with the term “effectiveness.” While the decision makers and policy makers would find more usefulness in this measure of performance, the complexity associated with measuring effectiveness and the lack of clarity on the units for assessing it make it harder to measure in a real work situation.
Despite the complexities, the basic notion of effectiveness, meaning desired or intended result, is more acceptable in practice than the idea of efficiency. The idea of effectiveness gets closer to the concept of outcomes, say in a development intervention. Effectiveness presents a more intuitive understanding of the results of an action. It is therefore widely used by practitioners and managers at higher levels of decision making. Unlike the presumption of neutrality in the objective function in the idea of efficiency, an objective function is specific to individual(s) of an organization in the notion of effectiveness. The general notion of effectiveness does, however, incorporate the efficiency driven by the logic of external competition.
The complexities are associated with the notion of time, space, context, objective function, and value base that are associated with the idea of effectiveness. With reference to the extent of space and time, effectiveness refers to a body of space, say an individual or an organization, and in a limited frame of time. With regard to context, it refers to a closed and relatively homogeneous system. Its objective function is linked to the objective of the individual or an organization. There is a value base in terms of outcomes for a specific set of actor(s), institution(s), or organization(s) and is largely built on the contractual relationship of give and take.
As India became an independent nation and framed its constitution to be a welfare state, public administration in India gradually adopted the effectiveness perspective. This decision of the leaders who led the freedom struggle in India was not acceptable to the business houses, entrepreneurs, and most elites of India, who argued that India was doomed to fail with this socialist approach (Brass, 1994). However, the government in power for the first 30 years after Independence stayed on this course of welfare state. With competition from the global capital and technology and continuous pressure from within the private business houses and neoliberal economists, India gradually opened up to liberalization, privatization, and globalization by 1985. Under intense pressure from global agencies such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization, India substantially opened up the Indian economy toward an efficiency-driven economic system in 1991.
Political parties that promoted privatization in the country also got to form the government of the day. India moved from gradual privatization in 1990s to large-scale privatization in the initial 2010s. The national government in power went to the extent of vouching to remove the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNRES), a scheme that served a minimum-income security for the poor and landless in the country. However, the national government in a couple of years realized the significance of such social security measures in the Indian social-economic context and reverted back to this policy. Thus, one observes that from being highly efficiency-oriented since 1995, India reconsidered the movement toward policies that are effective to the needs and conditions of the people from 2016 to 2017 onward. A large majority of younger Indian bureaucrats educated in elite schools have however been oriented toward the efficiency perspective. Public administration in India during the last two decades has therefore been in the crossroads of efficiency and effectiveness perspectives of administration.
Effectiveness perspective in the United States began after the Great Depression and seemed to have moved back to efficiency mode after the Second World War. The two major political parties in the United States, viz., Republican and Democratic, seem to offer different perspectives. While the Republic Party supported by the capitalists and neoliberal economists has been for efficiency perspective, the Democratic Party has shown shades of effectiveness perspective by way of adopting policies that include the economically weaker social classes of the country. Accordingly, the type of people chosen to lead the government bureaucracy changes with the political party that comes to power in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party and the Labor Party present two different perspectives. While the Conservative Party, with the support of neoliberal economists, is hawkish about the efficiency perspective, the Labor Party has largely been oriented toward the effectiveness perspective, as it tries to address the issues and concerns of the labor and weaker sections of the society. Accordingly, public administration in the United Kingdom changes with the political party in power.
The developing countries, especially the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and Japan, through systematic interventions and influence through the three global entities, created by the end of the Second World War at Bretton Woods Conference, viz., World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and International Trade Organization (initially the Uruguay Round and later World Trade Organization), were perused to follow the American efficiency perspective of development in their respective countries. Public administration in these countries therefore has been largely driven by hierarchical bureaucracy (Henry Fayol and Max Weber) and centralized government with a top-down model of administration. The BRIC countries have relied on their large common natural resources, aids and loans (in case of India and Brazil), and subsequently the taxes to implement their respective welfare measures that show some features of effectiveness perspective. However, in recent years, public administration in these countries has been tending toward the efficiency perspective with a top-down administrative approach.
Germany adopted state capitalism, where the state played a significant role in the efficiency-driven enterprise system. The European Union (EU) was also formed to create a stable ecosystem for a fair and free enterprise system. High taxation of enterprises and individuals and large social security measures has been the general approach of governance and administration among the member nations of EU. The Scandinavian countries exhibit these characteristics the most. So, interestingly while these countries show an efficiency perspective in the operations of individual enterprises, the governance and public administration are geared for the effectiveness of the policies for majority of the population including the weaker sections of their respective societies.