I haven’t kept count of the most commonly used phrases I’ve heard in my professional career. But “limited resources” has to be at the top and this phrase talks about people more than objects. It’s a given that there is always more work that businesses want to do than they feel like they can accomplish with the current number of people. If that were not the case then the business would let go of people to match capacity with demand.
In my experience, most business leaders typically approach resource constraints by trying to hire more people or by ignoring the situation and letting the day-to-day tasks run as-is. Hiring more people is a difficult battle in most businesses and ignoring the situation certainly doesn’t provide answers.
I try to approach resource constraints by examining the underlying processes of how people work. Maybe I’m wired differently and don’t mind examining processes to find opportunties for improvement. Maybe I don’t mind fighting the battle of getting people to change existing processes. But if an organization is to work smarter, then it must examine underlying processes and not be afraid to make adjustments.
In the book Blue Ocean Strategy, Kim and Mauborgne describe this technique:
“instead of getting more resources, tipping point leaders concentrate on multiplying the value of the resources they have.”
The Theory of Constraints looks at the underlying process as well. This management paradigm teaches us to first find the constraint within a process and then to exploit the constraint by shifting resources, managing work queues, and possibly adding capacity.
At the end of the day, changing existing processes within an organization can be as difficult as justifying new hiring. But I would argue that it’s a more worthwhile endeavor. Throwing more people at some problems might provide a brute force solution. But the underlying process will eventually bog down the productive output and you’ll soon here again the infamous phrase “resource constraint”.
Find a way to multiply the value of what you have by first examining the underlying process for inefficiencies and also by making sure that underlying processes contribute to the overall goal of the organization. Easier said than done, but if it were easy then everyone would do it.