The Chasm

Get busy! Get going! Do something!

How often have we heard leaders and managers using these exhortations? Perhaps way too many times. While all of the above seem ‘action oriented’ they are as meaningful or as meaningless as baby talk.

Most people or shall we say teams tend to confuse activity with progress. They are wrong!

Progress no doubt, requires action. Action especially in a professional context has purpose embedded in it. Activity or a set of random activities are precisely that. Random!

Objectives are important. It is purpose that bridges the chasm between activity and achievement.

The Dhoni style of leadership/management (it’s the eve of his birthday as I pen this article) embodies the concept and the difference between activity and action. Let’s spend a few moments to deconstruct a typical Dhoni chase.

  1. PURPOSE: The target is invariably broken down into bite sizes
  2. EVALUATION: The delta between target vs achievement is constantly monitored and of course analysed
  3. DECISION: Should the deficiency exceed what is considered to be manageable a decision-point arises
  4. ACTION: Continuing course, altering it totally or taking a minor detour all have consequences with subsequent decision trees
  5. CONSEQUENCE: Success or failure are therefore functions of a process, more easily predicted as every action alters the probability

Consider a different scenario, the typical India chase of the 80’s and early 90’s. The extreme dependence on chance and individual brilliance. Invariably these games had chaos reigning supreme. Maybe, perhaps even arguably, the reason odds and bets made their way into the game. Net-net questionable activity, poor quality of output and inconsistent results.


Be it sport or life. It is important for individuals, groups and teams to keep setting long and near term goals. While the long term goal gives perspective, the near term goals are absolutely essential as they serve as the lead indicators. In the absence of these goals tasks are not well defined and hence do not lend themselves to being measured. Going back to the cricket analogy ‘Keep taking the singles!’ is the adage. The purpose gets embedded when you know and are keeping track of how many. That is the difference between winning and losing. The team that wins is not the one that took the singles as the opportunities presented themselves. It is the one that created the singles!

Professional life is similar. Each step that we take, each task that we do needs to be purposeful. The magnitude of the goal or objective is immaterial as long as it has been thought through and the step/task contributes to the larger objective.

Holds true for committees, associations or societies too. After all, they too are set up or constituted for a purpose. No matter the number donation drives, collection drives, etc. organised, what really matters is fulfillment of objectives. Again, action not activity!


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