Principle 29: Manage Activities, Not Results

Results Cannot be Managed

Results are what happen after you have planned and managed.  If you have planned and managed poorly, your results will stink.  If you have planned and managed well, your results will be a pleasing aroma.  So, first things first.  Before results comes management, but before management comes planning.  If you want to achieve a particular result (an administrative task, a college degree, a production goal), then you must first determine specifically, step-by-step what needs to happen in order to bring about the desired result.  Then, you simply manage the activities necessary to achieve the desired results.  It’s really that simple:

Planning + Managing = Results
Identifying Necessary Activities + Managing Those Activities = Desired Result

Once you get this concept down, nothing can stop you.  I have seen too many managers throw a fit when they didn’t get a desired result from a staffer or themselves.  The problem is that they are too often focused on the wrong end of the equation.  They need to ask themselves, “Did I clearly lay out a successful, step-by-step plan to achieve the desired result?  Did I take care to ensure that each step of the plan was executed well?”  In nearly any situation, if you do not achieve your desired result, the answer to one or both of these questions is probably, “No.”

Don’t be Results Oriented

Focus on the process.  Before we were married, I invited my wife, Stephanie, to my apartment for a classy supper.  I had called my aunt Drucilla for the family spaghetti sauce recipe, and she was delighted to share it with me.  I even picked up a nice Betty Crocker Fudge Chocolate cake mix.  When Stephanie arrived for dinner, the apartment was filled with the scrumptious smells of what promised to be an exquisite Italian dining experience.  She was going to be impressed.  I popped the cake pan into the oven and set the timer, just as Steph knocked on my door.  I had the vague notion of something amiss, but ignored the thought.  After all, I didn’t have any eggs, and when I read the instructions on the cake box at the store, I hadn’t noticed the mix required an egg.  Who needed an egg in their cake anyway?

Stephanie walked in and made a big deal about the candles and the smells in the apartment, and we sat down to dig in.  When the cake buzzer went off, I grinned slyly, and told her there was something special in the oven that I had baked just for her.  I sauntered into the tiny kitchen, drew open the oven and victoriously produced the cake pan.  Without looking at it, I presented it to Stephanie who said, “What is it?”  Crestfallen, I thought, “What does she mean, ‘What is it?’  Isn’t it obvious, its a cake!”  I looked down at the pan, and what I saw looked like a thin, miniature blacktop road covering the surface of the bottom of the pan.  The cake had not risen.  In fact, it just sort of laid there like sludge.  I was embarrassed.  Stephanie asked, “Did you follow the instructions?”  I said, “Well, it called for an egg and…”  Stephanie burst out laughing, then, reluctantly, I joined in.  We had a good laugh over my failed attempt at cake-baking.  Results are what the cake looks like when it comes out of the oven.  If it didn’t turn out, there was a problem with the recipe or there was a problem with the preparation.  There is nothing wrong with the ingredients, or the oven, or the pan.

Give Your Staff a Break

Don’t blame them when you give them a task or a goal but don’t first work out the steps to success.  Lay out a good plan (for everything you want completed or achieved), stay involved to ensure they are following the plan, and you will get the results you want.  In my office, the number one reason someone doesn’t complete a task or achieve a goal is that the person’s manager was not on top of the activities necessary to reach success.  People get distracted, they get pulled in a million directions, they have competing priorities, and it can get overwhelming at times.  Make sure you have developed good processes and steps, communicate them well and often, keep checking in to ensure the steps are being followed closely, and everyone will win.