Don’t Confuse Activity With Results

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For example, we may have a new list of potential prospects to qualify and then import into our CRM. We know several may not be useful for several reasons, which is why some research is necessary, and we know that we have a time deadline for getting a meaningful number of qualified leads into the system so the next step – actually using the list to reach the prospects –

can take place.  Therefore, the database associate has to make a tradeoff between investigating each potential lead thoroughly and as a result only reviewing a small proportion of them or using heuristics – systematic shortcuts – which allow you to identify most potential qualified leads a lot faster, to generate the larger needed list, even thought it’s not perfect. Those who make the tradeoff properly take satisfaction in results; those who focus the number of hours worked and not the desired lead goal, are activity focused and much less productive.

Teaching them the difference is a great lesson for supervisors.

Another aspect of this issue: people often work long-hours but aren’t necessarily producing more results. For instance, you’re a fast worker and finished your work by 5PM and want to leave. But none of your colleagues have left yet and you don’t want to come off as a slacker. So you stay another hour or so, surfing the web, re-reading emails, etc.  In other words, the extra time is activity-oriented not results-focused.

How do we minimize such time-wasters and productivity busters? One answer is to teach young people the difference between activities and results when they first enter the workforce. Let them learn from the beginning to focus on the project purpose and aim at achieving the goal.

Second, we should find ways to increasing reward efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace. All too often people are rewarded for their activities – showing up and putting in the required number of hours – and not the results of getting 120% of everyone else’s work done in the same amount of time or achieving superior results in the same amount of time.

Robert Pozen, an attorney, discussed several years ago. He once noted that due to his expertise, he could often answer client questions quickly, but because the law firm bills by the hour, his efficiency works against him. While such a billing system shifts risk from the firm to the client, in case work takes longer than expected, it may not always work to the client’s advantage – because it gives lawyers an incentive to overstaff and to over-research cases.

What examples of this tendency to confuse activities with results do you encounter? How do you help people increase their productivity and self-satisfaction? How do you teach employees and colleagues not to confuse activities with results? Share your experiences and lessons!