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The Triumphant Return of Activity Management

Outcomes are better than activity. If you can only measure one, make it outcomes. A lot of activity produces nothing in the way of results. But look for activity management to make a comeback, and know that the people who need to have their activity measured and managed are partly to blame, but not solely to blame.

Technology has changed how we work, and it has changed where we work. There are now more people than ever working from home. But while they may be at home, and they may be being paid, they aren’t necessarily working. They aren’t producing the results that they need to produce. This is a problem of epidemic proportions.

Many lack the discipline to work from home. To work from home takes discipline. It takes discipline to go from your warm, comfortable bed to your office and begin to grind out the most important outcomes of the day. It takes discipline to do the work that needs to be done when you have the freedom to do things that feel like work but produce no real outcomes.

Most are too easily distracted. Your children are distractions. Your spouse is a distraction. Even your pets are a distraction when you work from home (My UPS delivery person rings my doorbell everytime he leaves a package, reminding my dogs of their duty to alarm me if someone comes to the door. That’s ten minutes of barking). The Internet is the mother of all distractions. When you go to an office you avoid almost all of these distractions. The interruptions at the office have a reasonable shot of actually being work-related.

The work that Covery called Quadrant II work, the non-urgent but critically important work is what suffers. When you work from home it’s easy to be reactive. You take your calls, but you don’t make your calls. You join meetings but you don’t book the meetings that you need to book. You might be “doing stuff” but it isn’t the right stuff.

Working from home is for hustlers. It’s for people who have the will–and the desire–to do the work that needs to be done wherever they are. But let’s make sure that employees with poor work habits don’t shoulder all of the blame.

The company that allows people to work from home must be prepared to lead the workforce that doesn’t come into an office. Activity isn’t the right answer for all productivity problems, but it is the absolute right prescription when low activity is to blame for poor results.

Sales organizations that are serious about producing results are going to have to require more reporting of activity and outcomes if they want their results to improve. The sales manager, a leadership role, is going to have to demand more, and inspect the activity as well as the outcomes if they want to really help the work-from-home sales force that they lead. Otherwise, the company and the manager who allows low activity and poor outcomes is complicit in the work-from-home salesperson’s failure.


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