The Trap of Doing More with Less: Ask Madeleine

More or LessDear Madeleine,

My organization is unable to hire all the people we need to truly get the work done. Our senior leaders keep saying we have to do more with less. I see my people pedaling as fast they can and they really can’t get all of it done. I am concerned we are going to burn them out—and me along with them! Help!

Burning Out

Dear Burning Out,

I regularly get variations on this particular question and there are no easy answers to it. (Actually, that’s not true. The answer is easy enough; implementing the solution is the hard part.)

The crux of the problem is that there are a lot of cost pressures in today’s highly competitive economy. The only sustainable solution is increased employee productivity, which causes executive teams to make the request for people to do more with less.

This can work for short periods, or as a stopgap between the current situation and a big change, but it can’t go on forever. What really needs to change is what is actually being done and how it is being done. So instead of asking people to do more with less, I would challenge your senior leaders to think about going back to the drawing board and coming up with new and different ways to get the same or better result.

Sit down with your boss and carefully review every task being done by your people with an eye toward what is mission critical. Any activity that isn’t absolutely mission critical needs to be deferred or permanently eliminated. Every task that remains on the critical list should then be reviewed for redundancies and possible gains in efficiencies. This is where innovative thinking comes in handy.

Is there anything that can be automated? Can regular meetings be streamlined? Are all the people in every meeting absolutely necessary? Can 1 hour meetings be changed to 40 minute meetings? Or even better, can all meetings be “blackjack” meetings—none longer than 21 minutes?

Once you’ve tackled the low hanging fruit, look at ways you can apply the same process to more complex situations. Often when faced with doing more with less, we end up doing exactly the same things we have always done, just a lot more of them. That’s only one of your options. What are others?

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

3 thoughts on “The Trap of Doing More with Less: Ask Madeleine

  1. From a CEO position, it’s critical that the organization is always wrestling with keeping the main thing the main thing. We tend to keep adding initiatives and demand the production from our team without adding more personal.

    Keeping the main thing the main thing will mean that as you add initiatives you also prune old ones that are less effective. When your team sees the active engagement from upper management to keep things focused on the primary vision, they work hard because there is clarity.

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