Activity versus Accomplishment
During the early part of my career, I had a boss, Bob, who kept a thread-bare unimpressive office but was very effective in getting work done. At the same time he maintained good human relationships, even in a factory with a very strong union. I admired him a lot. One day I asked him the secret of his success.
Here is what he said to me, "Don, never confuse Activity for Accomplishment. Also, Under Promise and Over Deliver." Wow, what a great philosophy! I have tried to think about it frequently over the years and tried to follow the dictum as best as I could.
Take a moment to think about your own job. Various studies have shown that on the average a white-collared worker is effective about 55% of the time. The most effective ones reach about 70%. What it translates to is that there is always a better way of doing something and it is our responsibility to find it. This was also the motto of the inventor, Thomas Alva Edison.
Unfortunately, in many unenlightened companies, face time is rewarded, instead of accomplishments. This is, of course, a carryover from the industrial age mentality of production lines.
Perhaps the legal profession is most guilty of perpetuating the activity concept by resorting to billing by the hour. However, this concept is slowly changing by clients' insistence on fixed-price contracts.
Visibility of an individual may cause an illusion of high accomplishments. Nothing can be further from the truth. Time and again, surveys of high level managers have shown that individuals who are seen in the office a lot, including early mornings, late evenings and weekends are considered highly dependable, reliable, committed and dedicated, regardless of true and meaningful accomplishments! Face time has been confused for effectiveness, a sad state of affairs.
If you want to increase your effectiveness, you may have to learn to limit the number and duration of meetings, reduce unnecessary reading by selecting only the relevant portions, and even write faster for the first complete draft. If this makes sense to you try to take a first humble step.