Byron's Babbles

Don’t Get Caught In The Activity Trap

Goals are very important. I don’t think anyone will argue that. Even just starting meetings by reminding everyone the goal to be accomplished is important to keeping us from going down rabbit holes. Having said that, I have always been fascinated to watch how leaders use goals – or not. In Simple Truth #4, All Good Performance Starts With Clear Goals, in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice we are told by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley that great leaders help those they serve to “…establish observable and measurable goals around their key areas of responsibility” (p. 17). I have witnessed leaders who are all about setting the SMART (see picture) goals, but then do not give the support needed for those they serve to accomplish the goals.

The authors called this out with what they called the “activity trap.” Blanchard and Conley said, “As a result, people tend to get caught in an activity trap where they are busy doing tasks – but not necessarily the right tasks” (p. 17). For some leaders it almost seems like they believe it is an honor to have their people, and even themselves, overloaded with the trivial issues, irritations, requests, and routine activities that eat up our time and resources. If we really want to shape the future, see around the corners, and look into the future we must use our goals and then set the strategy to achieve them. Getting caught up in the activity trap keeps leaders and their organizations from fulfilling their strategic mission.

Remember, activities completed do not necessarily equal desired outputs or worthwhile outcomes. This activity trap also kills innovation. Doing a bunch of activities prescribed by someone else does not mean that we have achieved the desired output or outcome, or set up other dependent activities for success. I believe this is a real problem in the area of education, where I spend a lot of time. Many times teachers are given many prescribed activities that are not really driving student achievement. The moral of this story is that we need to set the right SMART goals for outcomes and then support those we serve to achieve them with them using their own data to make decisions and adjustments.


One Response

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  1. Jewish Young Professional "JYP" said, on January 31, 2022 at 7:42 am

    I am definitely guilty of this


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