“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein
Most business people tasked to do more with less resources generally understand that working more hours and running themselves ragged is not the answer. Working 12-15 hour days is not sustainable or even productive.
Popular or Powerful?
Asking how to do more with less is the most popular question, but not necessarily the most powerful. Even the most brilliant answers to that question will likely produce incremental improvements that may not be sustainable. They’ll produce answers like:
- Delegation: What can we delegate? Who can we delegate to?
- Outsourcing: Who on the outside can efficiently handle this for us?
- Time management: What are ways that I, personally, can be more efficient with my time?
- Staff Assessment: Do we have the best skilled staff for the requirements?
- Automation: Is there a software program that would make this more efficient?
These questions and answers are popular because they’re comfortable and familiar, and they don’t require leaders to stretch out of their comfort zone. They also assume your competitive market and your customers are static.
Most beleaguered businesses are not driven by a lack of time or resources. From our 20 years of consulting, we know that leaders who are ready for exponential improvements ask these two questions:
1. What are the right things for our Customers?
Most companies have expanded what they think they need to do far beyond what is necessary. Everything they provide their customers costs time, money & resources, but may provide no business or emotional value to customers.
Are you regularly asking your customers what they need and what they value from what you provide? Unless you do this regularly, you’ll probably be shocked to learn there are plenty of things you’re wasting precious resources delivering things that provide no value to your customers.
Be not discouraged! They’ve given you gift, so that you can ask question #2.
2. What “less” can we do really well?
Instead of asking how to do more with less, ask what “less” you can do extremely well. In a competitive marketplace, fear can guide decisions. Companies begin to offer customers a variety of expanding options, hoping that covering all bases (a fear-driven versus a strategic move) gives them an edge over competitors. However, if the customer wants only vanilla ice cream, why do you keep making 8 flavors? Instead, shut down the other 7 flavors and make the world’s best vanilla. This doesn’t mean the thing to change is your product line up. It may be timing or shipping features that mean nothing to a client, they’re just extra options. It could be color or material choices that are meaningless to them but costly and time consuming to you.
Asking how to do more with less assumes that the world hasn’t changed since you made your to-do list. Yet, for most of us, the world changes so rapidly that the day you planned to have at 8 a.m. and the day you’re actually having at 10 a.m. are completely different. If something that simple changes so rapidly, how can you assume that you are still doing the right things based on what you think your customers wanted the last time you asked them?
The right answer to the wrong question is still the wrong answer.
Asking yourself how to do more with less may be like asking yourself how to build a better Walkman™ in 2013. Maybe the question needs to change.
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