Smarter and Harder is for Dummies

If someone tells you to work smarter not harder what are they saying about you?

The work has increased by 20% but the staffing has been cut.

We are not allowed to authorise over time.

We have had year on year budget cuts for the last 4 years.

My staff are working at full capacity but the backlog is increasing.

We are given less and less time to complete the work but no extra resources.

The response from senior management is often “work smarter” this can seem flippant, patronising and very irritating it certainly doesn’t feel helpful.

Smarter as its used here comes from the IT people and their smart systems and it means find a technological solution but the way it has slipped into the management language it can appear that you are being told if you were clever you would find a quicker ,easier way of doing this.

 The reason why things are done the way they are may be in part because we have always done it this way, the staff find it more covenant or its evolved this way over a long period of time but the main reason is in response to a series of management dictates. Why is it such a torturously long process to fill a vacant post? It certainly isn’t because it’s more convenient for staff nor is it because staff can’t think of a quicker way it’s because senior management are extending the process deliberately as a means of controlling the budget. The longer it takes to fill a vacancy the more money saved.

The usefulness of this expression is in getting managers to realise that the solution to their ever increasing workload is not to simply work longer hours. Instead managers need to recognise that they have a limited amount of time so either they find some short cuts or they prioritize and simply don’t do the less important stuff.

In the case of filling staffing vacancies it means don’t subvert the process to save money, shorten the process by delegating the authority, and make the budget saving by cutting posts. Of course that’s a harder decision to make so maybe the new mantra should be make harder decisions not smarter decisions.

Blair McPherson author of Unlearning management published by Russell House


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