Do More With Less

By Patrick McGee

As organizations try to contain and reduce costs, departments often find their headcounts are reduced as positions are eliminated or employees leave and not replaced. The workload, as I see it, doesn’t reduce to fit the reduced resource. In effect, organizations are saying to their managers:  “Do more with less.” Sadly, most don’t tell you HOW you do more with less.

One solution is productivity improvement with the resources that are available. What does that look like in real life? Here’s an example. In a recent story by Greg Keenan in The Globe and Mail, we learned how General Motors stepped up production of some hot models produced at one plant to 225,753 from 152,007 the year before. One of the ways they did it was a productivity boost. “Increasing productivity and eliminating bottlenecks added another 50,000” units, the story said.

Compare that to one of the other production boosts: adding a third shift at the plant – about 350 workers according to reports when it was announced – to get 60,000 units more.

What if GM had not added another shift? They could still get that additional 50,000 units from productivity improvements without adding many more people – certainly not 350 more as in the added shift. Dramatic.

So, instead of grumbling about resource reductions as most of us have, or just sharing the extra work amongst the remaining resource, take a page from GM’s playbook.  Don’t add inefficiency when more efficiency is needed.

For instance, how much time/resources are you using to re-create knowledge (processed information) that you’ve already invested in creating (a staffer’s work output on a project or issue, for example), but just can’t find or haven’t asked for? Just think of the inefficiency and productivity challenge that causes for the person who is assigned to re-create the knowledge (a distribution list, a position statement, a proposal, a company profile, etc.).

We have more productive capacity in our desktops, laptops, iPads and smartphones than most of us will ever use. Employ that hardware and software to organize, store and communicate your departmental/institutional knowledge. If getting it all together is the challenge, hire a part-timer, like a student, to get it going.

And if you have to justify the expense with metrics, try this:

  1. Ask your teams for examples of knowledge re-creation (rework) and estimates of how much time they have invested.
  2. Calculate the monetary value and ask the team to estimate how many of those re-creations they do in a normal week.
  3. If the work day was NOT expandable, what’s the productivity effect in time and cost of this one common productivity problem? Try reducing it by a set metric, say 25%, over the next three months.
  4. Repeat until the smaller and smaller gains are outweighed by the resources to achieve them.
  5. Maintain discipline and work on another productivity waster.

Copyright 2011