Can We Do More With Less? – A Surprisingly Effective Alternative
Achieve more, do less and NEED less
In problematical economic times, or simply during belt-tightening activities, many of us have been encouraged to ‘do more with less’. In fact, almost everyone has been asked, at some point in time, to attempt this challenge.
But is it really possible – or even productive – to do more with less? Surely, we’re doing everything we possibly can with the resources we currently have!
Isn’t being able to ‘do more with less’ an admission that we aren’t actually working at our full capacity?
If suddenly, on request, we can magically produce more with less resources than we’ve previously used, won’t that look pretty bad?
With these concerns in mind, the next time someone asks that we ‘do more with less’ is it safer to simply ignore the request? Or, perhaps it’s an opportunity to remind the issuer of such a request just how much we are currently doing with what we have… and that ‘doing more with less’ just isn’t even an option!
Or… How about looking at the request as a workable challenge? Rather than stressing about being asked to perform miracles, think of being asked to ‘do more with less’ as this: Achieve more, do less and NEED less.
Is this possible? We think so…
Think of the challenge using this metaphor of thinning lettuce seedlings in a vegetable patch. To do this, you consider how many lettuces you want to harvest, identify the weak seedlings and then remove them. The strong seedlings you’ve left to grow will provide your harvest, yet they’ll require less watering and sunlight. They’ll also be stronger, larger lettuces due to the extra attention they receive.
In business terms, Achieve more, do less and NEED less translates like this:
- Identify the goals you must achieve (your lettuce harvest)
- Remove non-essential tasks which don’t directly contribute to the necessary achievements (weed out the weak seedlings)
- Eliminate time and resources previously allocated to the non-essential tasks (less water and sunlight)
- Focus your full attention on the essential tasks required to achieve your goals (harvesting your stronger, larger lettuces)
So, let’s look at how to achieve this.
Planning Your Strategy
Achieve more, do less and NEED less is a holistic approach that requires detailed planning. Firstly, it’s vital that you are able to clearly identify the goals you need to achieve.
Once you’ve identified your goals, list every single task you do on a regular basis. It helps if you write your findings down. If you’re working as part of a team using this creative approach, use a flipchart and get everyone to contribute. It can be surprising to find out what occupies people’s time!
Once you’re sure you’ve identified every task, look at each in turn. Questions to ask may include the following:
- Is the task essential to a required goal?
- Is the task a stand-alone task? This can help identify if the results of a task can be achieved in another listed task.
- Is the task duplicated work? Is there someone else, even in another part of your organisation, already getting the results this task achieves?
- How often is the task completed? Perhaps it is possible to reduce the frequency.
- Can the task be productively outsourced? What are the implications of this?
- Is the person or team carrying out the task the best person or team for the job? Time can often be saved when people work on tasks that match their competencies. This could lead to a skills audit.
- Is there another, more efficient, way of completing the task?
- Is there any downtime associated with the task? For example, are you left unable to continue due to waiting for managerial confirmations or answers to queries?
Working through each task in this level of detail is likely to raise many questions. Discovering the answers to these questions will help you to eliminate unnecessary work.
When working through this process, think creatively. Just because you, or your organisation, have always done something in a particular way, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best way. Progress means that methods are constantly evolving. For example, new software allows the automation of many previously time-consuming tasks. Explore every possible way of achieving your goals. Thinking in this way will help you to identify potential limitations or bottle-necks in your current activities.
People are the Best Resources
Look at the people you work with. It impacts productivity in a positive way when people work on tasks they have a natural aptitude for. Also, people work with more enthusiasm when they have an interest in what they are doing. Is it possible that someone has become stale or bored within a role? Look at aptitudes, and look at levels of commitment and enthusiasm for each task. Are the right people involved in the right tasks?
Look at how teams work together. Is it possible that disputes or poor communication are leading to errors or delays? A good team can often achieve more than the sum of its parts.
Training can increase output. An investment in training could help you or your team achieve the essential goals more effectively.
Check for Leaks
When you have clearly identified your goals and the essential tasks you need to complete them, you can check the entire process. Look for any areas that have the potential to cause wastage of resources. An example might be that a particular task relies on the completion of another. This could cause delays. Use creative thinking to look for a workaround or solution. Streamline your activities, checking for wasted effort and leaked resources.
Finally, Evaluate… Continually!
So, you’re now using the Achieve more, do less and NEED less strategy. However, they say that the only constant thing is change – and this is certainly true in business. Just because one process for achieving your essential goals works at one point in time, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will continue to do so with the same efficiency.
The answer is simple: don’t wait to be asked to ‘do more with less’ again. Schedule regular Achieve more, do less and NEED less assessments, stay on top of the game and ensure you maintain optimum productivity.
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