Welcome to the September 2009 issue of Alignment Solutions! We have several things to highlight this month:
Our new article series called Research News You Can Use selects findings of academic research that are applicable in the workplace, and suggests how you might implement them in your organization.
Employees who perceive that speaking up is risky, even when they are making positive suggestions that would improve workplace effectiveness, create a "climate of silence" that is detrimental to the organization - and individuals. Discover the factors that lead to such dysfunctional behaviors and how you can counter them.
This month's theme is "optimizing results by doing LESS with less." Although the popular "We've got to do more with less" strategy tends to crop up like a bad penny during challenging times, the truth is that it is counterproductive. While it's true there could be some immediate benefits to this strategy for the organization, it carries very high long-term and short-term costs. It's time to drop the fantasy that organizations can improve measurably by continuously squeezing employees, systems, and equipment, and instead seek the opportunities that appear by embracing a strategy of doing LESS with less.
The Feature Article, "The Fallacy of 'Doing More with Less,'" submits that both employees and organizations are best served by "doing LESS with less." We identify two major opportunities that arise from following this strategy.
In "How to Prioritize: Doing LESS with Less Effectively," the Business Solutions section lists four techniques to enhance your ability to prioritize.
In the Personal Solutions section, "How to Optimize Your Personal Life While Doing LESS with Less" modifies the business prioritization techniques for use outside the workplace.
I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com to find other articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!
The Fallacy of "Doing More with Less"
How many individuals and organizations do you know who have bought into the notion that challenging economic times demand that we do "more with less" in order to survive? A recent conversation with colleagues opened my eyes to the realization that those who subscribe to this approach actually are shooting themselves in the foot. Instead of following this misguided advice, they would be better advised to focus on doing LESS with less.
The reality is that while most organizations can find legitimate ways to become more effective - e.g., reduce waste caused by high error rates, sideline programs that are poorly attended, re-think work flow - there comes a point at which further reductions affect the value they provide. It's at this moment that we begin to hear the "We have to do more with less!" mantra. My question is this: "How has 'doing more with less' been working for you?" With few exceptions, the answer appears to be, "Not very well." By trying to ignore realities like the number of hours in a day and the physical and mental limitations of the human beings who produce the goods and services, we do everyone a disservice. And we need to stop doing it - right now.
It's time to let go of the fantasy that we can do "more with less." Why? Because we can't - not if we're honest with ourselves. If we overburden people and systems, we will succeed only in burning out employees, experiencing equipment and process meltdowns, and cutting corners or engaging in other activities that will come back to haunt us in the long-run if not in the short-run. Although it may seem counterintuitive, implementing a "doing less with less" strategy actually results in increased productivity and decreased stress.
The new reality is NOT about doing more with less, it's about letting things go.
How do we do that? Letting things go is hard, and it requires making tough choices. NOT making those choices, though, will result in even tougher outcomes. We have to prioritize what we do, relentlessly asking how every person, process, system, program, and policy moves us closer to providing value to our customers/clients. Those people and things that are critical to providing the value must remain; everything else must go.
Though it may not seem so, doing "less with less" actually provides organizational stakeholders, including employees, with a number of wonderful opportunities to optimize results. Here are two major ones:
1. Clear the clutter
Over time, we tend to layer "things" on top of each other, such as adding steps to an existing process or increasing the number of layers in the organizational structure. Even when we are required to tighten our belts, the question usually is "How can we cut back on what we have?" instead of starting with a clean slate and asking, "How can we provide value to our customers/clients most effectively?"
2. Uncover hidden talents and resources
Organizations often are full of people who either are in the wrong jobs (i.e., a mis- fit between job and talent) or who have talents that are underutilized in their current jobs. Employers have a great opportunity now to hone in on their employees' talents and leverage them in ways that serve everyone well. Encourage people to be creative and innovative, and support their efforts. The same logic is true of other resources: most organizations can discover "hidden" resources, or those that are underutilized.
Clearing the clutter and uncovering hidden talent and resources often reveal a great deal of misalignment that has kept the organization from optimizing business results. For those who may be concerned that investing in anything or anyone during challenging economic times is not a good idea, consider this: there is a huge ROI (return on investment) in developing and empowering people, both now and in the future. Remember, one of these days the economy is going to turn around and people will have choices about where they work. Will your good performers choose to stay with YOUR organization? The answer depends on how you treat them now.