Over and over and over again for the last decade or so, we’ve all heard our leaders tell us to “do more with less”. It’s become almost trite and elicits eye rolls from the professionals who work very hard to create results for their companies. We think to ourselves, “I can’t work any more hours; I can’t do more than I’m doing now; we need more staff.” Is this, along with its companion quote “work smarter, not harder,” what they really mean?
Over the years, I’ve watched mainframe support move from a manually-intensive operation to a highly-automated world and while the steps have been incremental, when reviewed in totality, the progress we have collectively made as an industry has been nothing short of amazing. Simplified software installation and configuration, console automation, automated error-detection, standardized processes, more stable systems, and the list goes on.
There are those who contend that we’ve reached a point where there are no more gains to be made. If history is the best predictor of future performance, the steps may be imperceptible, but there is very probably more that can be done.
As a leader, I challenge my team to ask themselves the following questions for every task they undertake and every meeting they attend:
Do I really need to be doing this?
Is there a better way to do this?
Can this be automated?
Can someone else do this more effectively?
Does this need to be done at this moment?
Am I confusing the urgent with the important?
As a leader, it’s incumbent upon me to ensure that the team has the support and tools needed to make the strides in productivity that my company expects. This can be as simple as providing assistance with making sure the task or project lands in the right place or as complex as preparing a financial case for a new process or tool. If we, as leaders, expect the productivity gains, we need to do our part by equipping our teams to make these strides.
Since senior leaders tend to look at the big picture and not the details, are these the questions that they are really asking us to think about? Technical people tend to be very literal and take things at face value. Are our leaders really asking us to do more work, or are they asking us to use our skills and our experience to continually figure out better ways to accomplish the very same ends? Or is it both?