Let’s Do Less with More

Following another round of budget cuts, layoffs, or hiring freezes, employees usually hear, “Well, I guess we will just have to do more with less!” The trouble with doing “more with less” is that there will be a breaking point. Given all the statistics out there on the health consequences of being overstressed and overworked, it’s clear we passed that point a long time ago. Furthermore, when employees can’t use their talents to do the job they were hired for, they start to feel frustrated, depressed, and disengaged. We need to get back to basics, and focus on what I call the CORE of the business. As an organization or department, why do you exist? What is your primary function? How do you serve the mission? Once you answer those questions it is time to run an analysis of your daily work.

Leaders: have individuals work alone first on this process, and then facilitate a group discussion. Ask: “What side jobs, busy work, unnecessary reports, or extra projects are we doing that do not serve the core mission of our business?” “What jobs could be STOPPED or at least streamlined or simplified so we can focus on what matters?” New employees or outsiders are great at spotting these problems. They are like toddlers always asking “Why do we do that?” The answers are often rooted in the past, and have more to do with ritual than with current needs.

As a new organization development consultant in a large organization, I once asked about the end users of a detailed, time-consuming report that we produced on a regular basis. I wanted to know who the stakeholders were and why the report mattered to them. The answer was, “Well at one point [circa 1976, I’m guessing], one person wanted to know the figures on that, so we’ve done this report ever since.” Nobody since that person, who had long left the company, read that report. NOBODY read that report. Thanks to my toddler-like inquisition, that particular exercise in futility was killed on the spot. Ahhh, what a relief! To “sell” your new streamlined approach to others, if need be, develop good business reasons for removing or revising processes. Have the organizational mission and the good ol’ strategic plan handy if you need to. Show how you can better meet the needs of your customers by focusing your attention on your main priorities.  When busyness is stripped away, and the core of the business remains, then people can put MORE energy and focus into achieving the mission.