Doing More with Less

(10AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

I have a general ‘rule of thumb’, when writing a Diary: “Don’t make it about yourself.”

Today, I’m going to break that rule.

I work for a Govt Agency.  A database, software programmer … who has watched our very able programming staff of about 15 … shrink, dwindle, attrition away into about 5 or 6 “lucky ones” who still “remain standing”.  

Five years of budget cutting projections, have met their goal — however unmercifully.

AND in the “All Employees Meeting” I just left, the Message was once again, Still the Same …

Doing More with Less

Rod Kurtz, Bloomberg Businessweek –April 22, 2009

Smaller companies are feeling the squeeze of budget cuts, reduced demand, and tighter credit. It has never been more important to do more with less.

Since labor is the largest controllable expense, integrating and automating management, payroll, and HR is a place to start.

Govt is feeling that Pinch too.

Funny how Management in both worlds, always thinks, It’s the Employees that are the Problem!

I was sitting there quietly in the last “All Employees Meeting”, smiling where I was suppose to smile, generally acting Interested, when the presentation was anything but.

But then the Agency’s Regional Director, finally gets to the point, of the skit him and his cohorts had performed with gusto.  

Here’s was his stunning Pep Talk: (roughly paraphrased from memory)

Regional Director:  Given the success we’ve had at meeting the Goals of the 2010 Project, we have complete confidence in YOU, you wonderful Employees of XYZ Agency, that you will be up to the Challenge of meeting our next Goal: the 2015 Project.  

We need to continue to reduce labor and operating costs, for the next 5 years. We project 6-8% Budget Funding CUTS per year, for the next 5 years, with an expected overall reduction in Operating Budget for our region, to be reduced by around $75 Million, by the year 2015.

But we know you wonderful Employees can do it … to find even more ways, To Do More with Less! … Because without all your hard work and dedication, we could have never accomplished what we already have so far, in reaching our 2010 Goals.  

We’re only as strong as each and everyone of you, who’s hard work and dedication helps us accomplish all that we do.

Good thing, I generally have “good self-restraint” in Public Meetings — Because in my mind I was I was shouting:

OMG! NOT this BS again!  

Don’t they KNOW were AT the Breaking Point, NOW?

PS. Note to self:   THIS TIME you really DO need to Find another Job!!!

I took a job a Career with the Govt well over a dozen years ago, precisely because I wanted to be “a Part of the Solution”, and NO longer a part of the Problem, as my previous Fortune 500 [Defense Contracting] Employer so often was.  Even though that meant a significant cut in pay for the privilege of “public service”.  And MANY more Bureaucratic headaches, almost daily.  A much LESS clearly defined career track as well.  Oh well, such are the sacrifices good citizens are want to make.

BUT that Pep Talk — WAS the Last Straw for me.  It broke the dream.

The Sleepwalk is over, for me.

Since it’s unlikely he will grow a spine, and say Hell NO! to the DC Office, perhaps our Regional Director of XYZ needs to refine his Employee Talking Points, a bit.  You know study up … especially if he wants to continue squeezing Blood, from this ‘last standing’ Turnip:

Never Say “Do More With Less” Again

Phil Gerbyshak, EveryJoe — March 26, 2008

This is a guest post from Michael Kanazawa.

There are a few sayings that we hear in business all of the time that are about as ineffective as parents yelling at their children, “do it because I said so.” Even worse, these sayings in business cause people to make poor decisions and undermine their own leadership potential by repeating these phrases without really thinking about what they mean.

One of the most popular and most damaging of these sayings is demanding that people need to do “more with less.” This one is being used a lot these days because of the tough economic cycle. The most common use is to try to motivate employees to stretch further when budget and headcount cuts have reduced resource levels.

The problem this causes is that people won’t have an ability to get it all done. But without a focus on priorities, each person may select different priorities across different parts of the organization. People are spread too thin and can’t finish any single project or task with quality and diligence. The result is what we refer to as corporate A.D.D. and it is a root cause of poor execution.

In short, the “Do More with Less” Policy, WILL eventually translate into dangerous Short Cuts, unexpected delays, and cost overruns — in short, it results in having to “Do a half-ass Job”, on almost a routine basis.

And as one who takes pride in my work:  half-ass quality work is unacceptable!

Yet it is becoming the Norm, as my blood pressure and stress levels continue to rise accordingly.  We ALWAYS run out of WEEK, before we run out of WORK.

These days, I have about 10 active Klugey, Quirky, Coding-Database Projects, with only about 2 or 3 of them remaining, where I’m the Original Programmer.  You know, the person that wrote the Code, the one who really knows the Original Business Requirements, has long since been “cost cut” out of the Staffing Picture. The Result: Fragile, Quick-fix Coding patches — ie “hacks” are becoming all TOO frequent.  Adding more and more heavy sticks to that Camel’s Bundle.

One programmer left, because he was homesick for his native Country;

One programmer left, because of a better job offer;

One programmer left, because of a Stroke from the stress;

One programmer left, because he was tired of mind-numbing Coding;

One programmer left, the traditional way, he was laid off;

Another key person left, due to a “Salary Negotiation” dispute;

And the one thing they all have in common?

None of them, was replaced BY ANY NEW HIRES!

That was all part of the 2010 Plan … Cost-cutting anyway you can.  Cut the Fat. Cut the Staff.

Make the most of the Resources you got!    ie. DO.MORE.With.LESS.

(Otherwise known as:  Downsizing by Attrition)  Shhh! Don’t tell anyone.

For this to work, those ‘left standing’ MUST learn to become ‘Good Team Players’ — and BE WILLING to Pick up the Slack!  (the Slack of all those loser Full-timers, who are NO.LONGER.A.Part.of.the.TEAM.)

Whenever someone is NOT Replaced, I often wonder …

WHY in the world were they hired in the first place?

If their Job is not important enough, to rehire for, then Why Not just CANCEL all the Projects, they were a Key part of?  They must NOT be important either, Right?

Most Programming Projects are typically “critical”, or at least “important”, to meeting the Annual Objectives of the Dept’s Mission Statement (or they wouldn’t have paid for them in the first place) —

SO why are Programmers, those mechanics who “make the car go” — why are they treated like an interchangeable commodity, that you can just “Take it or Leave it”?  We’ll just hire more, when we need them.

One “Data Jock” is as good as the next … and they’re all SO overpaid anyways — who really needs them?  (an all too common refrain, in the CEO Cost cutting planning sessions, I’ve often heard about, over the years, from HR buddies.)

I should just feel LUCKY — I still have MY Job!  (Oh Boy!)

[Continuing from the previous link …]

In our book, BIG Ideas to BIG Results, we suggest a replacement to this old and favored saying of doing “more with less.” We suggest that when budget or headcount reductions are necessary to first say, “we need to do more ON less,” meaning more resources, more staffing, and more focus on fewer initiatives.

The result of this approach is a prioritization of the most important and high impact initiatives and getting the new levels of resources focused for delivering results on those top priorities.

Makes sense to me.   Focus on the Projects Priorities you MUST have, and do THOSE well.

You just can’t keep Doing the SAME Level of Work, with the Same Quality as before — Unless you keep that Labor “Talent Pool” FILLED — Staffed up, with the necessary Tools … to GET.The.JOB.DONE. … Right!

If Govt Agencies and Private Industries, continue to pile-on to us overworked ‘Team Players’, with more and more of this Business-as-Usual Downsizing — Well Something has GOT TO GIVE!

Those of us with the ‘Legacy Knowledge’, with the key ‘Institutional Memory’, who manage to keep those Key Projects running, and delivering:  Day In and Day Out

WE — just might end up Walking away, someday soon!  (even geeks have their limits)

The system is that thread-bare.  the last few strands at the bottom of the hammock, are showing their wear.

There’s Nothing Keeping me at my “challenging” Job — EXCEPT my commitment to do it.

Project 2015expect more of the same … learn to Carry EVEN MORE of your own Weight!

Don’t push it, accounting eggheads — or you just might find out the hard way — us Worker Bees, are NOT just an interchangeable commodity, Thank you very much.

When the Employees who keep it all running,

are gone, when we finally move on to less stressful Environs,

Well, you eggheads, will really end up losing a lot.  Trust me.

You just may ending up revamping all those Projects, from the ground up — AGAIN!

(so much for continued cost-cutting … cuz you’ll be hiring me, at my “Consultant Rates”, next time.)

PS. Thanks for letting me break my own Diary-writing ‘rule of thumb’.  Returning back to Observational Reporting Mode, very soon.

27 comments

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    • jamess on July 18, 2010 at 2:34 am
      Author

    Doing More with Less ???

    How about instead having to

    Doing LESS with Less?

    Police Depts, both in Colorado Springs and Oakland CA,

    have said as much recently, due to Austerity Budget Cuts in their Budgets.

    Those Police Dept — WILL No Longer respond to certain types of Calls, including Car Accidents, and Home

    Burglaries

    plus many others.

    (per CNN reports, and Ed Shultz interviews.)

    Those Police Dept are calling their  New Response Programs:

    Doing LESS with Less

    How Appropro!

    I guess we ALL better start getting used to the New Society,

    that newly minted Deficit Hawks, have planned …

    (as if, they have a Plan, lol)

    Cheers!

  1. seem to overlook is that everytime any sector of our workforce, including governmental employees, either experiences a reduction in disposable income or a complete termination of their job, their customer base shrinks that much more. Do they not realize that if their desire to have every possible job eliminated (or shipped overseas) and those who perform the remaining jobs work at subsistence wages, unless they sell a very unusual product or service, their reason to exist will vanish as well?  

    I recall seeing a sign several years ago that would be appropriate in many locations about the country these days:

    We have been doing

    More and more,

    With less and less,

    For so long,

    That, eventually,

    We will be able,

    To do everything,

    With nothing.

  2. …. think of all that money they have to use to bribe the warlords not to bomb them as they drive around Afghanistan.  

    • banger on July 18, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve done what your doing, but then I don’t mind hacking code and duct taping major leaks. But aside from that your point of “doing more with less” has been ongoing for quite some time across a variety of industries. The first cost-cutting measure is to cut labor-costs and force productivity up of the remaining employees. The problem with doing that in programming and other technical areas is that you cannot help but cut quality. A program might “work” for awhile until some unforeseen event occurs at some future date that requires extensive duct-tape work. In the long run, you will lose money (gov’t agencies don’t care about that usually–they mostly operate year-to-year). But then corporations often don’t care either since execs will work a few years then go elsewhere and let someone else clean up the mess.

    These matters may seem trivial but they are a key to our future because these attitudes of appearing to solve problems by kicking the can down the road are cultural problems which make even the concept of actually solving problems seem impossible. I believe we are getting to the point that, as a society, we are unable to solve problems from an institutional POV. Soon it will be from an individual POV.

    • Edger on July 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    So I wake up, groan, stumble around making a cup of coffee, spill it on my bare toes, moan some more, sit down, light a cigarette, read your essay, logon to my banks website to see if I can afford to eat today, and I get this message:

    This Web Service is currently not available. Service will be restored shortly so please try again later. We apologize for the inconvenience. For further assistance, please call… Telephone Banking

  3. Right between the eyes!

    In my company, it’s just “do more, all the time, with no more.”  How this is better than your reality, I do not know.

    And I am in the same line of work you are.  I do, really, more than just database work.  I do SQL work, programming, client server stuff, and GUI work.  

    What you describe — it’s all over, not just in the public sector.  Last week I told my boss the project I am working on would take 7 weeks.  I had told him previously that the project would take seven weeks starting from the time the company that had the needed source material got their documentation to us.

    So I tell him, yeah, it will still take 3 more weeks, since they got their source material to us in late June.  Then he turns around and tells the people begging for status updates from me (which I’m too busy to do, because I’m programming like a madman) that it will take me a week and a half.

    And I have to ask myself, why do I do this to myself?

    I always seem to find a way to get it done.  And if I am always satisfying their need to be self-fulfilling chut-heads, why am I not equally at fault in their unrealistic planning?

    I tell myself I should just let their insane unrealism fail, and I’m always picking up the pieces afterwards.  I am not part of a team, unfortunately, so the blame falls on me when things have holes.

    Now I’m trying to find a way to make code that writes code, so I can get shit done faster.  Why do I do this to myself?

  4. I distinctly recall replacing a hot water heater in my house after 30 years.  Since then I have replaced that same appliance three times over.  Hence “doing more with less” translates in Newspeak to fucking it up several times over at exponentially increasing expense.  The compromise of course was “casual Friday”.  Just to keep the peasants happy.

  5. A $300 dollar cell phone bill but nobody actually ever answers the fucking phone or if they happen by chance to answer they most definitively can not or will not solve the problem you have which you called about in the first place.  By that very act of calling and asking for some resolution you have identified yourself as a moronic malcontent bent on destroying the profit margins of billionaire western world luminaries who can hire 19 programmers in carbon exempt India for your car payment.

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