The Quantum Mousetrap

Mark Eduljee's blog about Social Media Insights Intelligence and his FlightSim Movies

Posts Tagged ‘Sun-Tzu’

Rocky: The Activity Ninja

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

I’ll bet you lunch money that you either know, or will soon come across someone at work or in your life who is a master at generating activity. They don’t often get around to results or move big rocks forward. But they are always on the go. Know someone like that? It’s the person who makes it their business to announce their status loudly and often, “I’m so busy!”

Ever heard this?…“I don’t have a minute to spare”, “…find free time on my calendar, but don’t be surprised if there is nothing available for the next 2 weeks! I’m sorry but I’m absolutely slammed!”

You walk away muttering to yourself “What the heck are you so busy doing?!” You are asking the wrong question.

You’ve just crossed paths with an Activity Ninja, 9th Dan (or 段, romaj, step). Be afraid. Be very afraid.

What you should really be asking yourself is “do I still have my legs!?”, for the Activity Ninja will chop the wind out of your sails so quickly that you won’t even have time to yell “Davy Crocket save me!”

Sun-Tzu, in The art of war said, Know your friends, but keep your enemies closer. In dealing with Activity Ninja’s though, I think our friend The General got it wrong. Keeping these Ninja’s closer is bad advice. On the contrary, it’s in everyone’s interest to identify them, then, stay as faaarrrr away from them as possible. Why? Because another truism uttered by our other friend, Lanky Prez AbeLincoln, takes over … (paraphrased) You can fool some people some of the time, but not everyone all the time. You do not want to be associated in any way with these “all talk no result” individuals. Bad news for your long-term health.

Activity Ninja’s wear the following uniform:

  • Shape-shifting camouflage: If you’ve spent more than 15 minutes in their presence trying to:
    • understand what they are doing
    • figure out which initiative their work effects the most
    • identify what or where their goalpost is or even looks like
    • get the location of any published SMART goals (which haven’t already been changed  4 times due to “other dependencies”)
    • keep track of their multiple “strategeries” (no spelling mistake), all taking you further down the rabbit hole with each passing moment
    • And you are getting a headache going, whhhuuaatt? then watch out!… you’ve encountered an Activity Ninja.
  • Dazzle-speak with shiny-object nunchuks: If it takes a court stenotype to record the conversation for later reference, AND a technical dictionary to keep track of the conversation, AND the smart people around the table begin playing with the lint on their lapels, beware, Activity Ninja on the prowl!
  • Power point shields as big and as dense as Black-holes: These usually contain enough metrics to plot a course to the Jupiter, have >5 images and bristle with LOTS of directional arrows…which all amount to nothing more than digital drift wood, know that you are in the presence of an Activity Zen master.
  • Ever-widening circles of discussions with more than 1 meeting on the same topic in a week…not only does that SOUND like Activity Ninja brilliance, it is. Run. Else, risk getting sucked into their Activity vortex from which you will need the help of Cap’n Kirk and warp-9 power to escape (all while trying to avoid being branded as unhelpful).

The Activity Ninja will pick up the rock (struggle, grunt, sigh, wheeze) focusing on the object of their fascination to map its crevices, weigh it, analyze it thoroughly, weigh it again, spend months and multiple resources designing multiple tools in anticipation of any number of what-if possibilities, convene multiple committees to review of the State of the rock, and, even smooth-out its intended path (several of them in multiple directions just for good measure) just so that the rock will have a great journey. Then, alas, the weather will change, or a blade of grass will shift, or the rocks shadow will go for a walk…. And its 3 steps back all over again to “reassess the situation”. Sigh. Who said the perpetual motion machine has not yet been invented!

Yeah, yeah, I agree. This is all a bit over the top with a hefty dose of melodrama. But isn’t there a modicum of truth to the Activity Ninja persona’s in your life? It’s quite a skill they have actually – Not to be admired, but to be compartmentalized and managed.

These Activity vortexes suck an organizations time, energy, and resources with the sole intent of driving self-importance and influence. Amazingly, some of these dynamos even succeed. But sooner or later, in every case I’ve observed, people wise up and the house of cards comes crashing down…a certain Bernie comes to mind…lots of activity, no results. Sooner or later, the Oxygen runs out. Question is: Will you be in the same room suffering a painful death too? I hope not.

But courage grasshopper! To counter the effect of the Activity Ninja, practice the art of Moving the rock:

  • Use A to get to Z: Recognize that Activity is not the Zenith. It’s not the end. If steps and process do not directly contribute towards moving the rock forward, you are wasting your time. Hold yourself responsible and accountable for spending everyone’s time and energy wisely. The universe will recognize and reward you for doing so.
  • The 3 point ritual: Describe “it” in 3 sentences within 3 minutes or less, to the point where OTHERS can explain it too. If other can’t clearly articulate your cause and value, how can they rally around your leadership and sell it to others to help push your rock forward?
  • Be the ant: Size is overrated. Small, intentional, calculated forays. Test the edges. Reassess. Step forward again. Deliberate steps. Nimble. Quick. Proactive. As long as the ant doesn’t make the same mistake twice it’s moving the rock. At a minimum, it learned something new. Better to have tried and stumbled than to acquire a reputation of being a safe drone, or perpetual planner.
  • Commuter meditation: At the end of each day while driving home (or however you do get home) ask yourself, “did I move the rock today?”  Even if it’s a half roll forward, it was a good day. Half-a-roll over time makes a mile. You did well for your shareholders, customers, family, friends, your dog, cat, goldfish…whoever, whatever. You moved the rock down the road.

You defeated the Activity Ninja. You did something meaningful and useful. You rock!