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Productive vs Active December 24, 2007

Posted by Darth Sidious in Managing Employees, Project Management.

Now and then I’ll see military units such as squadrons of Storm Troopers scrambling around suspect rebel planets, or see our Software Development staff feverishly coding to make the UI look cooler.

But here’s a question that I pose to Executives, Management, and Product Managers – is such staff being productive, or merely active?

Frantic Work May Feel Productive, but is it?

To feel productive often people go into a frantic work pace, they’re motivated to get things done, and they want to bring value to the organization and themselves. But just because they’re moving quickly, firing off a ton of emails, defragging hard drives, whipping rebel prisoners, and experimenting with some new tools doesn’t mean they’re being productive.

This sort of activity should be allowed, the reason people do it is it’s a way to mentally recharge. Reasons may very, but for example they might have come off off a long and intellectually intense project, or when dealing with a particularly complex problem they need to walk away from it and focus on something else for a bit so that they can come back to it with a fresh perspective, and emotionally it helps them recharge (being able to innovate with new technologies, or tackling some no brainer tasks to feel they got a lot done, etc…).

The Difference

But, from a people management perspective this type of activity needs to be controlled as it might not be productive. The difference is productive activity is prioritized work; it’s an established effort that is aligned with the organizations mission and stated goals, has time allocated for it, and should also be line item on a person’s performance plan.

Allow It – But Control It

So, stick to the 80/20 rule here – make sure that the productive time for your people is at 80% or greater. If innovation is important in your organization – make it part of your mission and state goals, that way your allocating the time for it.

Darth Sidious



1. Rob - January 1, 2008

Anakin – I hear that one of the Rebel Alliances hallmarks of learning to multi-task is to actually slow down to accomplish more. Weird I know but I understand that its worked for Luke Skywalker.

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