The Pain of of More for Less

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2010 by Tim Aikens

Last week the Government announced that it was going to replace NHS Direct (a telephone based health support service) with a new service.  This was immediately met with howls of derision and anger from the opposition Labour Party who had introduced the service.  In their eyes NHS Direct was seen as a success, being used by an increasing number of people.  Here’s the point. Something can be good and successful, that does not mean it cannot be better.  And of course change is painful. Here is Labour’s successful creation being pushed to one side for ‘something better’ – that will do More for Less.

This story summarises why it is so often hard to introduce change – do More for Less without generating pain and opposition.  There is a saying I sometimes come across – ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.  I can see how this might apply to things mechanical (on occasion), but I have great reservations about its application anywhere else! Most of the human race like a measure of continuity, we like to do things ‘our way’ so we are naturally resistant to change. So it is in business. We find a way that works, optimise it and stick with it.  However there is always someone out there seeking to improve.  Much of the battle to generate more for less is about three things – recognising that what is already good can always be improved, proving that the new way will indeed be better and overcoming the resistance or pain of doing something differently.

All credit to the NHS, they are seeking to do More for Less.  However, they have done little to resolve either of last two issues.  The NHS have talked about trials and said it will be more cost-effective, but really that is just not good enough.  If the new service really is better they need to show the evidence, not simply announce the change.  We are faced with another similar issue in London. The underground want to cut 800 ticket office jobs because so many people use Oyster (the top up travel card) that they simply don’t need the ticket staff.  Beyond this there has been little done to overcome resistance (the Union is threatening strike action) or provide evidence that these staff are no longer needed.

If you are in the business of generating More for Less (and every self-respecting manager should be) then addressing all three  issues is vital.  Text books and lecturers on change all say the same thing.  My consulting experience has always been that as soon as you present real evidence of the benefit of change, resistance will start to weaken.  So if you want to reduce the pain get the evidence!

Oh, and one other point.  The Labour Party is now in opposition, so anything the Coalition do will, by definition be wrong, and met with opposition. Quite rightly, that is not going to stop the government.  Similarly in business, there will always be those who oppose because they ‘have to’.  Weed them out and ignore their pain, but do deal with the vast majority who need to be heard and persuaded – by the evidence!


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