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Do less

Some years ago we sat in a conference room listening to a division president talk about the downturn in the economy, competition from other companies, and shareholder expectations about earnings. This division president told us we were going to have to get used to doing more with less. Now to my ears this sounded like, “you’re going to have to work harder”. With two kids under the age of three, the whole notion of working harder than I already was didn’t go over too well. I opined that really we ought to consider doing less.

The idea of doing more with less isn’t even a clever way of saying you’re going to have to work harder. But “work harder” dammit, seems like the solution of last resort, not first.

One of my best players ever, was a punk-rocker named Clarke. We were discussing career aspirations one day and Clarke looked me straight in the eye and said, “Al; work is for chumps”. He was right; work for the sake of work IS for chumps. Any and all work must add value of some sort. This is the single acid test of worth: If the task doesn’t add some sort of value, then its purpose must be challenged. Work that doesn’t stand up to this challenge must be stopped.

There is another way to look at this. The call to “do more with less” is really an invitation to get better results with the same net resources. The only way to do this is change the game. Stop putting up with meaningless work. Change the processes that suck the life out of you. When you find that you really are doing less, then you’ll know you’re doing it right.

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  1. June 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Another excellent post. An economic downturn often forces the question of “do more with less” and companies that survive realize that there must be a better way (a smarter way). That usually means that the status quo has got to go.

    Speaking of Initech, have you seen my stapler?

  2. June 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Another interesting post… Very nice. I think these four words ‘Do more with less’ are overused and have lost actual context they were meant for. I liked once when you said to me – if it is taking to long to get the job done then you must be doing something wrong. Here I would take it as achieve more being ‘smart’ with less effort/time OR smarter way. Do we remember when an accountant used to carry a big calculator for preparation of pay rolls? now it is matter of few clicks on software. Thanks

  3. Paul
    June 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Nice post Alex. In a related vein…one of the classic mistakes organizations make is the addition of extra services, classes, meetings, etc. without ever reducing the current workload. A wise administrator once said to me when I was proposing a new program….”that sounds great, what are you going to give up?”.

    • June 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      I like the way you labeled this a “classic mistake”. Corporate histories abound with functions, departments, product lines, and even clients/customers that nobody ever thought to jettison as the organization grew or changed directions. New ventures should be considered not only in the context it’s value, but it’s impact on existing infrastructure and strategy. Whenever we find that something doesn’t fit anymore, whether for profitability, effort, fit, or simply our own interest, we owe it to the organization to divest and dismantle.

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