Thursday, September 25, 2003

More With Less screed  

Earlier this week I wrote about the More With Less Cult (9/22) and at least one very involved & intelligent person didn't get the point I was trying to make. This means I wasn't clear enough. Sorry, Mr. Ely.

In an attempt to be clearer, let me try to boil down my experiences in this matter.

I believe good managers do not try to do "more with less."
They iteratively try to
    do more with the same resources
    the same with leaner resources.

So no one with field experience would, for example, try to create a single plan that produced 20% more SUVs on a line with 20% fewer employees, 20% less inspection time at 20% fewer rejects on the old quality specs. If that was the end goal, there would be four plans, attempting to achieve one objective each, one at a time (with the other goals in mind but not in execution simultaneously). The More With Less guy might achieve that by gutting the quality standards (the usual victim in one of these Cult events).

Each effort executes *one of those* things at a time, ratchets the efficiency, checks to see if quality is still sufficient.

If the Quality is sufficient
    Then try to
        do more with the same resources
        the same with leaner resources.
    back out change and try to do something different

Ultimately, scale is the enemy...for every economy of scale, there are two diseconomies of scale, that bigness leads to inefficiency which can only be held in check or reversed with ever greater effort as the org grows in size. And that incompetents find it easier to rise in the hierarchy while hiding their incompetence in a G.M. or DoD or Microsoft or KGB style organization than they can in a corner grocery store or three-person commercial leasing operation. And therefore, the ambitious incompetent are drawn to large organizations and repelled by small ones, as a general rule. In my practice, I have had to mud-wrestle with so many of these ambitious incompetent I have lost tolerance for them. And many of them are the "more with less" crowd, imagining you can just go straight there without dozens or hundreds of incremental steps. They believe that because they could not execute properly any of the individual steps, so they imagine if they just do the "vision thing" and skip the hand-dirtying everyday operational grind, it will just <poof> happen. Peter Pan Management, replete with frelling fairy dust.

Certain lines of endeavor draw more of these ambitious incompetent than others. Where measures aren't easy or can be fluffed with commonly-accepted accounting standards that hide more than they indicate, that's where the Peter Pan crowd is drawn, gravitationally. Any field where "I can't tell you what I like/quality-is, but I'll know it when I see it" is a prime candidate. Publishing (where "quality" is almost impossible to judge with metrics). Baseball historically has had its share of insider madness, but the onset of sabermetric and other alternative models is squeezing that in another direction. Consulting is pretty much unaccountable. On the other end there are organizations like the DoA's Soil Conservation Service or Oxfam and other health-to-third-world types or manufacturing, because the deliverables are very fungible and measureable. The ambitious-incometent tend to migrate, like wildebeest, away from naturally accountable endeavours, and towards naturally unaccountable ones.

Someday, we should talk about the Less With Less odyssey of the Milwaukee Brewers, which is slowly being re-directed by their newest General Manager, Doug Melvin. Later, though. Just wanted to get this clariifcation on-line.

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