Why Doing Less Doesn’t Always Achieve More

I’m amazed at the number of companies and entrepreneurs who have grasped the “less is more” approach and actually ended up not only doing less, but achieving less.

The whole less is more approach is based on ensuring that we’re focused on the right things and that anything that doesn’t help us achieve our goal is stopped and our effort are redirected.  It’s basically a pareto based approach where we look to focus on the 20% of effort that will deliver 80% of the results.

In order to do this though, we need to have a very clear focus, a clear picture of what success looks like, otherwise we can end up doing the 80%  of work which only delivers 20% of the results.  Now we are in the trap of doing less but actually achieving less, and sometimes we don’t achieve anything worthwhile at all.

The most obvious cases of this are when people get trapped in analysis paralysis, spending the majority of the time in defining an elaborate solution which can either end up being unfit for purpose, over elaborate, or with insufficient time or budget left to deliver it.

One project I got to review had spent over $2m dollar designing a solution and when the full cost of the finished project was estimated to be  close to$10m, the business said they could not afford it as there was no business case. But before the analysis was even started the cost of the design was known to be $2m and given that analysis and design is usually around 15-30% of the total budget cost, it was clear that the total project was going to be in the region of $10m.

But this implication was never really thought through, they just dived into the analysis and design hoping that a cheaper solution would present itself.

So now we had a project which had spent $2m and was cancelled and the only thing to show for it was a very expensive specification document.

Achieving more by doing less is possible, but it requires us to have a good understanding of what we want to achieve, a clear picture of success, a simple and easy to understand approach which minimises the amount of unproductive activity.

We need to review every aspect of the plan and really challenge as to whether it’s needed or not, and if it’s not needed then eliminate it. Every manager believes that his team and management meetings are important, but even these can get bloated and detract effort from the final goal, and as leaders we should make sure that we are not wasting our, and more importantly our teams time. We need to set the example.

We need our teams to be both effective and efficient.  We need be sure that everything that gets done contributes to the finished product, the solution we are implementing or the goal we are trying to achieve.  Once we do that then we are sure that we are maximising our effectiveness. Then we can start to look at our efficiency trying to find faster, better or cheaper ways of doing what we are doing. Because now we are doing the right things, and the question now is how can we do them better.

As leaders it’s out job to ensure our teams are doing the right things, this responsibility lies with us, and once we have done that then we can leave it to our teams to figure out the best way to do them, after all they are the experts, and when we do that, then we can truly look to hit the goal of achieving more by doing less.


If you want to understand more about how to optimise the performance of your teams call 561 501 0888 or email me at gordon@leadership-principles.com for a free 30 minute strategy session.