The Illusion of Busyness

I believe there are several peculiarities in human behaviour that percolate into management. Besides irrationality, I’ve also been curious about the illusion of busyness. This idea has been discussed several times, often as a plague of modern work culture. This article from Slate suggests that “Busyness is a virtue, so people are terrified of hearing they may have empty time. It’s like being told that you’re obsolete.”

This behaviour is also reflected in managers who are constantly doing things for their company, brand or project. The flaw of this habit is simple: you’ll only get to the wrong place faster, by going wholeheartedly into something that could be wrong.

Annual plans, quarterly plans and company strategy are perhaps made with this in mind: to take a step back and have a long term view on any project but I find that with time, these too become mere operational necessities and one among many things that need to get done.

The trick is to slow down. A clarity on long term future (and more importantly the ability to get there) only needs the answer to two basic thoughts:

1. Who we are: This seemingly simple question is one to easily get wrong, while a lot of companies wrongly define the business they are actually in; a lot of mismanagement ensues. The key rests in identifying the value any pursuit creates, rather than the output it creates. Innocent smoothies are a case in point.


2. Where we want to go: Very often wrongly defined as the financial motive of a company, there has to be more to this. It is a vision that doesn’t just align what we want to achieve financially, but also intangibly. It is a definition of our legacy, not our success. Nike gets it right!

Nike Mission

How we get there (or strategy as the presentations would say) is simply the shortest line between these two points.


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