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Outcomes vs. Activity

June 9, 2007


Fantastic post by Chris Michel of Affinity Labs, entitled “Outcomes vs. Activity.”

Here is a good excerpt from it:

“most people tend to confuse activity with outcomes — and it is a breathtakingly expensive mistake. In a world of infinite choices, choosing which activities will occupy your day is likely to be your single greatest driver of effectiveness. Beyond picking the right objectives to pursue, you need to focus on the results, not just the means to that end.”

I think I am going to add this to the enterpreneur’s bible I will present to every entrepreneur I back.

One of my pet peeves is showing up at board meetings and seeing “meeting with XYZ” listed as either an accomplishment or a milestone.  A classic example of an activity versus an outcome.

And, as an Internet investor in a time of exeptional innovation, it is too easy to spend my time meeting with every interesting startup that comes across my desk but never have the discipline to focus on a particular opportunity at the expense of meeting those ten other companies I could have seen while doing diligence on the one.  Which would create a year end summary which looked something like: Activity: met with 1,500 really interesting startups, met lots of smart people and learned a ton; Outcome (new deals closed):  zero.

Great reminder of the importance of clearly identifying objectives and prioritizing time accordingly…


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  1. June 9, 2007

    Thanks for this post/reminder, Mike — I just did my personal weekly summary and found myself making some similar entries. Of course, I’m trying to find my co-founder/tech-lead, and that takes a lot of coffee meeting and interviewing time. But I’m trying to be a lot more discerning with what meetings I agree to put on my calendar, and when I do book them, to try to put them all into a morning or afternoon, so that they don’t chunk my day away to very little focused activity time.


  2. June 11, 2007

    This is a great post Mike, VCMike is always a good read. One question though: as Board member/investor, aren’t you interested in progress toward those “outcomes” that make a difference? Board meetings or reports are only snapshots in time, so if one of your companies is working on several initiatives simultaneously (as most are), don’t you want to know where they all stand? Some will have outcomes, but many will still be steadily-progressing “activities”.

  3. June 12, 2007

    Jordan, I absolutely agree that it is often helpful both for management and directors/investors to be current with the important “activities” a startup is engaged in. But I also think it is important not to confuse these activities with actual “outcomes.” I find that separating the two makes it easier to answer the question whether various activities are helping get the company towards targetted outcomes.

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