Why Doing “More with Less” FAILS!

More with Less 1

Few of us have been asked to do more with MORE – it’s usually to do “more with less.”  Few of us have ever had an abundance of resources to deal with.  None of us have said, “Jeez, I just don’t know what to do with all these resources and money.”  Whether we point to global economic recession or the new reality of doing business in today’s world, having to do more with less has become part of the job description for most managers – and it’s not an easy task.

Shrinking budgets, reduced personnel and limited resources can create a lack of confidence in an organizations’ ability to achieve its core mission.  In the face of such challenges, it is easy to see how employees can become demoralized and the workplace can become infused with a lack of certainty.  If you allow it, today’s circumstances can be ready-made excuses to not achieving your organization’s goals.  That is all the naysayers need to spread cynicism.  As a leader, it is imperative that you do not let this happen.  Do not allow your mission to fail because you are overly focused on the challenges.  It is important that you look to what you CAN do with what you have, to re-evaluate priorities if need be, and ask yourself, “What is in my hand?”

This past Summer, I gave the kickoff speech at the first annual PhillyRising Conference.  A large part of the audience was made up of community heroes, those who have been active, service-driven and tenacious in fighting against quality of life issues in their neighborhoods.  The other portion of the audience was made up of public servants, those who have dedicated their life to improving our city.  Both of these groups know what it’s like to make the most of what they have.  I felt the need to tell them about a story from the Bible that has helped me with the right perspective.

Admittedly, telling this story flirted with the separation of Church and State (not really).  But no matter your denomination (whether you even have a denomination or not) the story of Moses can be used as a great parable for working through a lack of certainty and limited resources when you face huge challenges.

I spoke of this at our PhillyRising Conference because our PhillyRising Team is a great example of this philosophy at work.  Yes, as I explained in the speech, they are my “staff” but they are also making a huge difference in 15 of our most challenged neighborhoods with very limited resources.  With what is a miniscule budget, they have managed what is probably the greatest return on investment in City government.  They have enlisted dedicated volunteers, collaborated across departments and leveraged resources while also applying their tireless energy and passion to our neighborhoods every single day to make a difference.

Recently, for just a few dollars, we created a mobile App to support the PhillyRising neighborhoods. Along with our award winning Philly311 App, it is our effort to put something into the hands of our citizens (through their smartphone) that can help them make the most of our collective resources. (Try the app here.)

The App lets neighbors connect with like-minded community heroes, identifies local available resources and locations (including nearby computer labs that help close the digital divide) and informs them of upcoming positive efforts in their neighborhoods.

Rich Negrin PhillyRising AppAsking valued employees to do more with less is often a recipe for failure.  Struggling to do more with less often leaves you doing all of it poorly.  Results will suffer.  Your team will struggle to avoid being mired in mediocrity.  Resource challenges create an opportunity to truly refine priorities.  To even redefine your core mission if need be.  To simplify in order to succeed.  To focus on what is truly important to you as an organization.  Don’t do “more with less”, narrow your mission to what is really important and do less better.  Make the most of what you have by making the best use of available resources.

For me, the moral of the Moses story is to utilize the resources that you DO have rather than to worry about the resources that you don’t.  Doing more with less usually doesn’t work.  Whether it’s talented and passionate staff members, important  partnerships or critical skill sets that make your organization unique, you need to cultivate the resources you have—strategically, so that they have the best possible chance to not only succeed but to make a substantial impact.

Chances are, your resources can go farther than you ever thought was possible.  With the right perspective, you can do exceptional things despite great challenges.  That will make your success that much sweeter in the end.  Don’t do more with less, do less better and ask yourself — What is in your hand?  And having a little faith in your effort doesn’t hurt either.

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Rich Negrin is the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination. Service Centered Leadership is the Managing Director’s blog series appearing on PhillyInnovates. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichNegrin.





6 thoughts on “Why Doing “More with Less” FAILS!

  1. I’m glad you used the story of Moses as an example. More people should do that. After all, the Bible is the instruction manual that as all the answers!

  2. This is a great post that takes a piece of jargon – “doing more with less” or even “do less with less” – and puts it in perspective Thank you. I think oftentimes people that serve city governments as vendors (like me and my company) use these terms without realizing how demoralizing they can be.

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