How to do More With Less

Continuously growing a business in the face of constraints (like budget, time, and resources) has become a crucial competency in these current times. “Do more with less” is now the rule of thumb for many businesses, especially those operating in conditions of crises. A three-year study conducted on businesses that have remained successful in the midst of resource constraints gave birth to four valuable insights as to what is required to lead any business well in these constrained times:

Lead your organization through the constraints, not away from them.Steering your business towards constraints earlier than your rivals can or do gives you a competitive advantage. In 2014, when Formula One’s racing ruling body announced the rule change of imposing a 35% cut on the amount of fuel a car can utilize in a race, some teams (like Ferrari) resisted and protested. On the other end, Mercedes accepted this rule change almost immediately and took action. The company promptly relocated their engine and race teams based in another country to the location to help work on the challenge. By the time the rule change was effected, Mercedes was the best prepared team. Mercedes unveiled their breakthrough turbocharger technology which gave them the fastest cars – and the world title.

Set the bar higher. It’s very tempting – even expected – to demote your business’ ambitions in constrained times. But strong business leaders appreciate that raising the level of ambition even more produces a propulsion to let go of the tried and tested of the past for new world practices. Take for example, Leadership Public Schools in Norther California. It increased its ambition to graduate all of its students from high school in spite of chronic budget shortages and student disengagement. The school staff were highly motivated by the feeling that anything less than this commitment to its students was unacceptable. The seemingly lofty ambition, though daunting to most, enlivened them, spurring them on to come up with the courage to experiment with novel, even radical, ideas on teaching methods for math and science, in particular. This enabled their students to advance two to three grade levels in a single school year.

Reject compromise.The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games did not have the budget for the pricey dot matrix crowd control signage to direct traffic. But Head of Spectator Experience Heather McGill refused to just accede to crowd control solutions from previous years. Instead, McGill pushed for initiatives that, not only controlled crowd and traffic, but would likewise elevate spectator experience. There were unexpected live music shows slow down departing crowds and vacuate traffic away from bottlenecks. The team also used “gamesmakers” who enthusiastically lead people to the right way with the popular oversized foam hands. McGill and Team’s novel ideas translated to the 2012 games to be voted as “the best live event” ever attended by 86% of the attendees. It was McGill’s unwillingness to accept compromise in the face of limitations that energized the team to create new and engaging initiatives for managing the crowd.

Effective communication. Begin by re-visiting the “default settings” of your staff meetings. Consider that our rituals may sometimes deter us from focusing on executing. Do you really require a full hour for regular meetings, or can this be accomplished with much briefer discussions? It might feel as if this is not enough time for collaboration. But in a busy organization, especially those operating under constrained conditions, five-minute conversations might work better. Simply put, we don’t always need more time – what we need is to make better use of the time that we have.

Scaling down your business does not need to be too daunting. Many business people confuse activity and results. Effective leaders succeed with limited resources by refining their main objectives, strategizing through collaboration, and simplifying organizational communication. Judicious business practices perfected during constrained times will spell huge success when the upsurge inevitable comes.