The Limitations of More with Less

Undoubtedly you’ve heard the mantra that we need to do more with less. You may have even used this phrase yourself as a kind of short-hand for some wider/more complicated explanation or justification. The problem with that phrase is it’s become so generic it can mean almost anything to anyone. Read: We need to do blah blah blah (just don’t say it out loud in a meeting).

Even if we discard some of the more cynical (although not in many cases inaccurate) interpretations of more with less such as, “We’re going to layoff half our staff and the rest of you will have to start working twice as hard.”, and go with, “We need to become more productive and use fewer resources.”, it still doesn’t give you a clear understanding of what’s required and it may lead to wrong conclusions. “We need to become more productive and use fewer resources.” may be interpreted as being applicable across-the-board and/or without regard to priorities, needs, and effectiveness. In fact, for the overall organization to become more productive, there may be a need for more resources in areas like project planning and Information Technology.

So instead of “more with less”, let me suggest that we need to “focus on efficiency” because focusing on efficiency is about making a concerted effort to utilize our limited resources to the best possible advantage to accomplish our mission. Now we have a clearer understanding that we need to wisely invest our ever-limited resources into our mission and stop wasting resources on inefficiencies that drain those resources away from the mission.

For more about efficiency visit focusonefficiency.com.


Focusing on Efficiency is based on Benefits Management research, processes, tools and techniques developed and presented by John Ward, et al. at Cranfield University School of Management (many of which can be found in the book Benefits Management: Delivering Value from IS & IT Investments by John L. Ward & Elizabeth Daniel); Lean Six Sigma; Project Management Techniques; a great many other readings; and my own thoughts and experiences.

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Tim Verras

While it may only seem like semantics, I think this is a good idea. Here in Georgia there are a number of city’s facing furloughs, job cuts and interruption in key citizen services like garbage collection. One of things we try to help these cities do is be more efficient without having to make these sorts of cuts. As you mentioned, IT is a great way to add efficiency and we typically like to look to network infrastructure as the best, quickest way to reduce costs. Depending on the size of the municipality, a significant chunk of the IT budget can be shaved off through implementing virtualization and centralization plans. In fact, New York City just did this and is slated to save $30 million on energy costs alone. There are many other areas where a city can add efficiency, but IT is generally a good place to start.