Doing as little as necessary and Just enough is never enough. 

Doing as little as necessary sounds like a skivers charter. Where as Just enough is never enough could be the motto of a demanding manager. The first is about a radically different way of operating the second is about learning from mistakes so that next time we do better than just survive. 

In the news paper today I read about an innovative award wining partnership based on a philosophy of, “doing as little as necessary”. I was just starting to think about how such a radical idea might have a wider application for organisations when I came across another article in the same paper which forcefully argued that ,”just enough is never enough”. How could both be right when they appeared to be saying the complete opposite? How should a leader who wants the latest thinking to inform their practice decide?


The first think to point out was neither piece was in the business section! However I find that if you want cutting edge thinking, a different way of looking at things or something that makes you question how things are done you’re just as likely to find them in the sports section as the finance section. Doing as little as necessary was in the International section under Architecture. The piece was based on an interview with a successful and award wining French partnership. They have built a 30 year career on knowing how to intervene with the most economical means. Their approach begins with a forensic assessment of what is already there and how it could be improved with a minimum of resources. They illustrations their approach with a story about a commission to redesign a public square in Bordeaux. They told their client to leave it alone. They thought the square was perfect as it was and just needed new gravel. Jean - Philippe Vassal explains it like this, “ If you go to the doctor they might tell you your fine. An architect should be the same.” 


The second piece was in the section on Health and Social Care and included an interview with a Professor of clinical operations research. She was talking about identifying the lessons to be learnt in the response of the NHS and other organisations to the pandemic. She characterised the response of the NHS as,” .....tying to get away with doing just enough ” and went on to say,”that never works.”  


Architecture is not just about buildings it’s as much about people. The NHS response to coronavirus isn’t just about patients it’s as much about evidenced based decision making. Management is about managing resources be they buildings, information, finances or people, as such Doing as little as necessary and Just enough is never enough are both concepts that can be usefully applied in organisation by managers and leaders. 


Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger 


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