We hear a lot about doing more with less. This is for people who know it’s not that simple but want to try anyway. I’m one of those people, I’ll be sharing a series of tips for simple things we could do. Come back often if that grabs you πŸ™‚

“Doing more with less”. Sounds a bit headmaster-ish. Easy to hear it as “you people are lazy, work harder”. Probably doesn’t go down well with some of you. Others probably don’t believe it. Maybe some of you know it needs to be faced. Maybe the challenge of it excites some of you.

So can we do more with less?

Engineers do more with less.
I trained as an engineer (I also trained again in politics, philosophy and social policy).

Doing more with less is hugely important in engineering. Making things faster, better, cheaper, easier to use and more reliable is what a lot of engineering is about. Look no further than Apple for examples – the new Macbook Air is thinner, lighter, and performs better than the previous model – at the same price. Engineering in action.

Simple rules. Design out waste, design in results.

…but engineers don’t have magic. First they do less.
Engineers can’t make 2+2=5. Promise you, they teach us loads of maths about that kind of thing, and engineers don’t like being asked to try. They know it doesn’t work. Some of the rhetoric around spending goes a step further and seems to imply that 2+1=5. Still not going to work πŸ™‚

So if the cost and the amount of work done by public sector has to be less, how can we get better results?

In engineering you do more with less like this:
– look at the system. Identify the goals of the system.
– look at the components in the system. Look at what each component is doing to support the goals.
– make it unnecessary for components to do work that isn’t supporting the goals
– make it easier for components to do work that is supporting the goals

This is basically ‘efficiency’. ‘Efficiency’ has the same image problem as ‘do more with less’ – sounds like management and leaders saying ‘work harder you lazy oiks’. But to engineers efficiency is exciting. No really. And companies like Apple are absolutely focussed on efficiency. That’s how they get 36 hours of battery life out of an iPod.

So we could take inspiration from the approaches used in engineering. But I’m guessing that right now, learning about lean production, operational research or the Demming approach to systems design isn’t top of your list (if it is, I’ve provided handy wikipedia links for you :)).

Practical wins
I think we’re looking for practical ways to cut out unnecessary work, unnecessary cost as soon as possible. Some of these will be easy, others will mean challenging assumptions and habits ingrained in public sector practices – challenging those depends on the brave amongst you. We know you’re out there πŸ˜€