Activity or Results – Which Do We Reward?

Activity is: movement; working on tasks; kinetic energy; being (or looking) busy; doing ‘stuff’…

“Getting Results” brings to mind: meeting goals; creating value; making sales; completing projects…

Are they the same thing? NO – Results require activity – BUT – Activity does not necessarily produce Results.

To that point –

I can recall seeing an energetic guy wearing black rubber boots while waiting 3-hours for an ‘about-an-hour’ work on my car at a large auto repair shop. ‘Boots’ was in perpetual motion – heading toward the parking lot, front office, mechanic bays and elsewhere. He showed a sense of purpose and moved with great determination. But he never made it to any destination before changing course – off to a different one lickety split!

Fascinated by this constant motion, I flagged down Boots and asked what he was doing – “Keeping this place organized and working!” was his reply. Interesting; I never saw him touch a car or accomplish any task during the entire time.

When settling up for the repair, I asked the service rep about Boots and was told that he is of our most valuable employees – the guy is on the move from the time we open until we close.

In contrast, when managing a club recently, I had a server who had that perfect balance of providing attentive service without hovering. He would glide by the table filling water glasses and removing empty plates as he went – if the kitchen was slow, he’d stop be the table to let his guests know as he put down fresh bread & butter; he would check back with the table as the folks began to eat to see that everything was properly cooked and the meals were correct. This was greeted with smiles from the guests and often a supplemental order of side dishes. Of course, he offered desert and coffee after the meal.

I once overheard him asking the head of the table if she was thinking about coming back soon and offered to put in a reservation for her favorite table – Great Idea!!

In response to lagging satisfaction and declining patronage, we had set new goals of exemplary service, increased sales, and greater diner volume. This server had a grand slam getting top results for all three goals – he was a strong positive peer influence for the other servers as well.

Do you find that we reward – directly or indirectly – activity as if it creates the value of getting results?

Is Boots really perceived as a top employee for his perpetual motion rather than accomplishment? Can top notch service be delivered by disinterested servers – and – can customer service be improved without great service? Focused activity leads to achieving results.(The New Management is Leadership).

Does any of this make a difference in leading an organization in today’s New Normal (When Will We Get Back to Normal)? How do you see it?

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Joshua joseph

All good questions. I completely agree with the general idea that activity doesn’t equal or lead to results. The challenge, particularly when you get away from pretty straightforward activities (serving a meal, fixing something tangible, etc) is that many of the problems folks are working on ingovernment don’t have clear solutions. So just b/c we aren’t seeing the results we want doesn’t mean we don’t have dedicated people doing good work to cure cancer, address education challenges, keep the foods supply safe and so on.

We do also need to hold people accountable and keep score on whether we’re moving forward and spending our money wisely. A focus on “progress” may a better aim in cases where the solutions aren’t so clear-cut. The irony is that putting too much emphasis on end results can actually keep people from doing important activities which, even if they at first lead to dead ends, can become springboards for finding better paths forward. We need more of that experimentation in gov’t and recognition that small wins may sometimes be the best way to move begin moving forward.

So I guess where I come out is the need to balance progress/results with a recognition that directed activity and risk-taking are important pieces of the puzzle…even if they aren’t always showing measurable impact.

Sam Allgood

My favorite quote:

Emotion is no substitute for action;

Action is no substitute for production;

Production is no substitute for reproduction.

– Dawson Trotman