New Manager

Action versus activity

D. Murali | Updated on January 30, 2011


We often confuse action with activity, laments Debashis Chatterjee in The Other 99% ( One may be very busy in the office the whole day without having acted at all and the busy-ness may sometimes hide lack of action, he cautions.

Active non-performance: The author's description of managers who are actively engaged in non-action is that their minds are always active but not productive. “When asked for specific information, they will confuse you with all kinds of useless data. They would make simple tasks such as writing a memo seem as complicated as rocket science. These managers end their day with what may be called active non-performance.”

Chatterjee observes that the crisis of leadership is very often a crisis of action, with leaders being unable to act because they are not connected with their own being. Their actions often flow from second-hand ideas, lack real conviction, and such leaders find it tough to connect with the people they lead, he adds.

Two tests: The book speaks of two simple factors that determine the authenticity of action and can turn activity into true action. The first is the spirit or motive behind the action. Purity of motive or intention is a clear test of right action, the author avers.

Conceding that very often our action may not meet with immediate success despite our intention being noble, he says that such intention, however, has the potential to generate tremendous goodwill.

The second test of rightness of action is in the result such an action produces in the long run, rather than merely outputs in the short term, explains Chatterjee. An example, he mentions, is of how after-sales service can be more important than the actual event of sale in achieving complete customer satisfaction, which is the intended outcome.

Action advice: A simple ‘action' advice to leaders is that they can become successful by making their actions contribute to the well-being of the people they work with, helping their followers succeed.

Chatterjee instructs, therefore, that when followers succeed, leaders automatically succeed. “It may seem strange, but our research tells us: the more unselfish leaders are, the more successful they are in the long run. This is also the secret of creating a successful organisation.”

Educative material for managers.


Published on January 30, 2011

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