The fallacy of rewarding activity more than accomplishment

John D. Cook writes some scary true words in Productivity and negative space:

People who fracture their time putting out fires seem more productive, or at least more responsive, than the people who block out time to think. It’s harder to notice someone not being frantic. Thinkers don’t fare well in environments that reward activity more than accomplishment.

This is such a huge problem in big corporations today. People who are running from meeting to meeting are perceived to be more productive than those who sit at their desks working all day[1]. And the problem is worse for programmers – very few managers understand what they do, so it’s hard for them to stomach days and days of solid coding without seeing something “tangible” (in their view).

It all comes back the difference between Makers and Managers, and how the Makers should be evaluated on completely different criteria than the Managers. Criteria that reward the quality of what they make, not the number of status updates they give.

(link via Graham Poulter)


  1. I’m not saying that people who have a lot of meetings are necessarily less productive, just that those who are not in meetings are “out of sight, out of mind”, and therefore not seen as particularly productive.  â†©